Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Roadsigns for Rodents: Creation of signposts detected in the first non-human species

29.04.2003


Humans are not alone in creating ‘signposts’ to help them find their way, according to new research published in the open access journal BMC Ecology. Wood mice, say scientists, move objects from their environment around using them as portable signposts whilst they explore.

The finding is significant as this is the first time such sophisticated behaviour has been identified in any mammal except humans. According to the authors,

“This is precisely how a human might tackle the problem of searching efficiently in a homogeneous environment – for example by placing a cane in the ground as a reference point from which to search for a set of keys dropped on a lawn.”



Quick, effective navigation is vital for the wood mouse. Home-ranges are vast in comparison to the mammal’s size and consist of uniform areas, like ploughed fields, without obvious landmarks. These environments are not the same all year round, and harvest time drastically changes the availability of any ‘fixed’ landmarks, food supplies and hiding places.

During field observations, Pavel Stopka and David Macdonald from the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford noticed that wood mice move piles of seed shells, leaves and other small objects as they explore. They observed that the mice are most active around these piles and frequently return to them.

Stopka and Macdonald brought wild mice into a controlled environment to see if they were using these items as ‘portable signposts’. Ten groups of 4 male and 4 female mice were put into special arenas with a nest box, food supply and bedding, and given 10, 5cm diameter white discs.

Mice were videoed constantly for 15 days, and their movements analysed. Activity around the nest box tended to consist only of short, local meanderings not based upon the location of the nest. Movement around the discs, however, involved longer journeys associated with exploratory behaviour. This behaviour was observed in both males and females.

When a mouse found an area it was interested in, it would collect a white disc and move it there. The mouse would then continue to explore, its movements focused on the disc’s location. Stopka and Macdonald observed that the mice would continually return to or ‘look for’ the disc – apparently using it to orient themselves. Once the mouse had finished searching a particular area and identified a new point of interest, it would pick up the disc, move it to the new area and repeat the exploration, again using the disc for orientation.

The discs also served as ‘book marks’ for when activity was interrupted. If a predator were detected, the mice would retreat to shelter. Once the threat was over, the mice returned to the disc.

Stopka and Macdonald hypothesise that these signposts are more effective for wood mice than scent marks: they can be moved at any time and are not detectable by predators.

For further information please contact Grace Baynes (press@biomedcentral.com or Tel: +44 20 7631 2988).

Grace Baynes | BioMed Central Limited
Further information:
http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1472-6785-3-3.pdf

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Unique genome architectures after fertilisation in single-cell embryos
30.03.2017 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

nachricht Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

'On-off switch' brings researchers a step closer to potential HIV vaccine

30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

Penn studies find promise for innovations in liquid biopsies

30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

An LED-based device for imaging radiation induced skin damage

30.03.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>