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 Princeton researchers explore how a carbon-fixing organelle forms via phase separation
13.09.2019 | Princeton University

nachricht The working of a molecular string phone
13.09.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The working of a molecular string phone

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Potsdam (both in Germany) and the University of Toronto (Canada) have pieced together a detailed time-lapse movie revealing all the major steps during the catalytic cycle of an enzyme. Surprisingly, the communication between the protein units is accomplished via a water-network akin to a string telephone. This communication is aligned with a ‘breathing’ motion, that is the expansion and contraction of the protein.

This time-lapse sequence of structures reveals dynamic motions as a fundamental element in the molecular foundations of biology.

Im Focus: Milestones on the Way to the Nuclear Clock

Two research teams have succeeded simultaneously in measuring the long-sought Thorium nuclear transition, which enables extremely precise nuclear clocks. TU Wien (Vienna) is part of both teams.

If you want to build the most accurate clock in the world, you need something that "ticks" very fast and extremely precise. In an atomic clock, electrons are...

Im Focus: Graphene sets the stage for the next generation of THz astronomy detectors

Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology have demonstrated a detector made from graphene that could revolutionize the sensors used in next-generation space telescopes. The findings were recently published in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy.

Beyond superconductors, there are few materials that can fulfill the requirements needed for making ultra-sensitive and fast terahertz (THz) detectors for...

Im Focus: Physicists from Stuttgart prove the existence of a supersolid state of matte

A supersolid is a state of matter that can be described in simplified terms as being solid and liquid at the same time. In recent years, extensive efforts have been devoted to the detection of this exotic quantum matter. A research team led by Tilman Pfau and Tim Langen at the 5th Institute of Physics of the University of Stuttgart has succeeded in proving experimentally that the long-sought supersolid state of matter exists. The researchers report their results in Nature magazine.

In our everyday lives, we are familiar with matter existing in three different states: solid, liquid, or gas. However, if matter is cooled down to extremely...

Im Focus: World record for tandem perovskite-CIGS solar cell

A team headed by Prof. Steve Albrecht from the HZB will present a new world-record tandem solar cell at EU PVSEC, the world's largest international photovoltaic and solar energy conference and exhibition, in Marseille, France on September 11, 2019. This tandem solar cell combines the semiconducting materials perovskite and CIGS and achieves a certified efficiency of 23.26 per cent. One reason for this success lies in the cell’s intermediate layer of organic molecules: they self-organise to cover even rough semiconductor surfaces. Two patents have been filed for these layers.

Perovskite-based solar cells have experienced an incredibly rapid increase in efficiency over the last ten years. The combination of perovskites with classical...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Society 5.0: putting humans at the heart of digitalisation

10.09.2019 | Event News

Interspeech 2019 conference: Alexa and Siri in Graz

04.09.2019 | Event News

AI for Laser Technology Conference: optimizing the use of lasers with artificial intelligence

29.08.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Low sea-ice cover in the Arctic

13.09.2019 | Earth Sciences

Researchers produce synthetic Hall Effect to achieve one-way radio transmission

13.09.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Penn engineers' new topological insulator reroutes photonic 'traffic' on the fly

13.09.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>