Skip to main content

Rakish Angle on Rodent Research

It wasn't so disconcerting to learn that wild chimps use tools for eating, grooming, and defending themselves. Chimps, after all, are members of the great apes and almost identical genetically to humans. But now, in a development sure to give paws, er, pause to all owners of opposable thumbs, researchers at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research in Japan (RIKEN) have taught rodents to use tools.

In an experiment conducted with a group of six degus (cousins of the guinea pig), scientists placed sunflower seeds just out of the rodents' reach on the other side of a Lilliputian picket fence but provided the animals with tiny rakes. By the conclusion of the 60-day study period, all the degus had figured out how to pull the seeds within reach by using the miniature garden implement.

Can a TV development deal for a rodent version of Home Improvement be far behind?

Video: Rodents using tools