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 Show me your leaves - Health check for urban trees
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht Liver Cancer: Lipid Synthesis Promotes Tumor Formation
12.12.2017 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Using drones to estimate crop damage by wild boars

12.12.2017 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

How fires are changing the tundra’s face

12.12.2017 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Telescopes team up to study giant galaxy

12.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>