Rats prefer saving drowning fellow rats to chocolate


This video from England is called Brown Rats at Attenborough Nature Reserve, Nottinghamshire – 15th November 2014.

This video from Japan says about itself:

Rat Saves Its Soaked Cage Mate

13 May 2015

A rat helps its cage mate escape from a distressing room filled with water. (Credit: Sato, N. et. al./Springer)

From Wildlife Extra:

Rats will help to save fellow rats in trouble

Far from deserting a sinking ship, rats will help save a mate from possible drowning

Researchers have found that rats are more altruistic than previously thought and will save other members of their species even if doing so is not particularly to its advantage.

For example, if one rat is in danger of drowning, another will extend a helping paw to rescue it. This seemed to be especially true for rats that had experience of a similar dangerous situation themselves, says Nobuya Sato and colleagues of the Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan, published in Springer’s journal Animal Cognition.

Sato’s team conducted three sets of experiments involving a pool of water. Rats dislike being soaked but one swimming in the pool could only gain access to a dry and safe area in the cage if its cagemate opened a door for it.

The team found that rats quickly learned that to help their fellow rat they had to open the door, and they only opened the door when there was actually a distressed cagemate nearby who needed to be saved.

The experiments also showed that those rats which had a previous experience of being immersed in water were much quicker at learning how to save a cagemate than those who had not been immersed.

The researchers also watched what happened when rats had to choose between opening the door to help their distressed cagemate or accessing a different door to obtain a chocolate treat for themselves.

In most cases, rats chose to help their cagemate before going for the food. According to Sato this suggests that, for a rat, the relative value of helping others is of greater benefit than a food reward.

The results indicate that rats show empathy and can share in the emotional state of members of their own species.

“Our findings suggest that rats can behave prosocially and that helper rats may be motivated by empathy-like feelings towards their distressed cagemate,” says Sato, who believes that studies of sociality, such as empathy in rodents, are important for understanding the underlying neural basis of prosocial behavior as well as evolutionary aspects.

See also here.

Prairie vole: Mouse-like creature ‘capable of showing emotional sympathy’. Study finds they will console one another by grooming when one individual is observed suffering from painful distress: here.

Rats take a fundamentally different approach toward solving a simple visual discrimination task than tree shrews, monkeys, and humans, according to a comparative study of the four mammal species. The work could have important implications for the translation of research in animal models to humans: here.

Researchers have found that the rat brain activates the same cells when they observe the pain of others as when they experience pain themselves. In addition, without activity of these ‘mirror neurons,’ the animals no longer share the pain of others. Finding the neural basis for sharing the emotions of others is an exciting step towards understanding empathy: here.

Rats exchange information about danger in a reciprocal fashion, and this information transfer is at least partially mediated by a brain region called the anterior cingulate cortex: here.

English hazel dormice news


This video from Britain is called Wildwood’s Dormice Breeding Programme.

From Wildlife Extra:

Release carried out of 42 hazel dormice in Nottinghamshire woods

Twenty one breeding pairs of endangered hazel dormice were this week released into the wild at an undisclosed woodland location in Nottinghamshire.

The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) has released the captive-bred animals as part of a national programme to help this endangered animal survive.

The dormice are released on-site in breeding pairs in their own secure wooden nest box fitted inside a mesh cage secured to woodland trees. This helps them adjust to their new home in the wild.

Once the initial relocation has taken place, the dormice are checked and fed daily in these cages over a two-week period to help acclimatise them to their new environment.

A small door in each cage is then opened so that the dormice are free to explore their new home whilst having the security of the mesh cage and food if needed. These are eventually removed once the animals have settled into the wood.

Despite their once widespread existence throughout much of England and Wales, the range and population of the dormouse has diminished significantly over the past 100 years, and the species is now rare and vulnerable to extinction.

However, analysis from the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme, the world’s largest and longest-running small mammal monitoring project which is managed by PTES and co-funded by Natural England, suggests that although dormice continue to decline, the rate of decline may be slowing.

This does not mean that dormice are ‘out of the woods’ yet, though, and such reintroductions play an important role in UK dormouse conservation.

This latest release site has been clustered closely with last year’s location.

Habitat such as woodland and hedgerows will be improved between the two sites so that as the two separate populations establish themselves in their respective woodlands, they will later have the opportunity to disperse and eventually join up. This will enhance the chance of long term viability for dormice in Nottinghamshire.

Ian White, Dormouse Officer at PTES, explains why dormouse reintroductions are part of the charity’s long-term conservation strategy for the species: “We cannot undo overnight the changes that have occurred in our countryside and rural practices over the last 100 years which have contributed to the decline of dormice.

“But with time and careful management we can create sustainable areas of woodland and hedgerows so that dormice can re-establish themselves and thrive.”

This year marks the 24th dormouse reintroduction by PTES at 19 different sites, with more than 750 dormice released across 12 English counties over the last 21 years.

Extinct moth comeback in Britain


Small ranunculus, photo by John Reeves

From Wildlife Extra:

Moth returns to UK in time for moth night

Return of the Ranunculus – The moth that came back

June 2012. A moth, previously extinct in the UK, has successfully re-colonised large swathes of the country thanks to wildlife-friendly brownfield sites.

Small Ranunculus – Colonising brownfield sites

The Small Ranunculus, an intricately mottled grey, black and gold moth became extinct in Britain prior to World War Two, but started to appear once again in the late 1990s.These early immigrants from continental Europe established a foothold on brownfield sites such as abandoned quarries and spread along roadside verges.

With little interference, the moth has now re-colonised large areas of South East England and become established in South Wales as well as being sighted as far afield as Lancashire and Northamptonshire.

Brownfield suitability and vulnerability

The Small Ranunculus favours brownfield sites as they typically hold plants that the moth’s larvae feed upon such as the Prickly Lettuce and Great Lettuce. Brownfield sites such as quarries, disused railway lines, gravel pits and spoil tips are important for the recovery of this species and key habitats for many threatened and common moths and other wildlife. But in spite of their wildlife value, brownfield habitats are under-recorded and threatened by Government policy.

Other moths that rely upon brownfield sites include the Six-belted Clearwing which mimics a wasp, rarities such as the Four-spotted, Wormwood and Bright Wave and more common species like the dramatic looking Elephant Hawk-moth and the Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet.

Moth night 2012

Moth Night 2012 runs from 21-23 June and will include a series of daytime searches and night-time recording across the UK.

Moth Night 2012, organised by Atropos and Butterfly Conservation, the annual celebration of moths and moth recording, is focussing on the biodiversity benefits of brownfield sites. Events across the UK will survey moths found on brownfield sites, reveal important biodiversity hotspots and help map the return of the Small Ranunculus.

Morec details are here.

Rare small ranunculus moth spotted in Nottinghamshire: here.

Britain: Washout summer hits moths: here.

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Moths are just as worthy of our wonder as butterflies: here.

October 2012. During September 2012 ecologists striving to secure the future of the nationally endangered Barberry Carpet moth, established a new population of this species near Ashton Keynes in the Cotswold Water Park: here.

August 2013. Nottingham Wildlife Trust have a once in a lifetime opportunity to extend the Skylarks Nature Reserve, at Holme Pierrepont and they are asking you to donate to help buy the land. If Nottingham Wildlife Trust manage to raise the cash it will become Rushcliffe’s biggest nature reserve: here.