Wednesday, October 19, 2005
National Geographic News has an interesting story about the early detection and not-so-rapid response to a rat invasion. To test how they would deal with the introduction of rats on an island, researchers released a single Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) on New Zealand's Motuhoropapa Island. Then they tried to recapture it. And tried. And kept trying, for more than 10 weeks.
It was a lot harder to capture that single rat than they'd imagined, even with the rat wearing a radio tag. Part of the reason was that the rat wasn't on Motuhoropapa Island anymore - it swam to Otata Island, which was 400 meters away! The researchers have concluded that traditional management methods, like trapping and the use of dogs, are likely not the best response to rat introductions. The results of the study will be published in the next issue of the journal Nature (link forthcoming).
Rats are extremely hardy animals, and as such, an incredible threat to many ecological communities. I read a really good article about some of their abilities. I can't remember everything, but rats can:
-Tread water for three days straight
-Fit through holes the size of quarters
-Chew through steel
-Reproduce at an alarming rate
-Solve some puzzles
If we ever need to subjugate an alien planet, I would suggest we just send large shipments of rats.
Strong and valid points Brian. The media is really grabbing hold of one piece of data gathered from the study - it seems that until now there was no good hard evidence documenting the long-distance swimming abilities of rats.
A possible addition to your list: anecdotal evidence that rats can form literate and mechanized societies ;-).
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