21 October 2016
By Agata Blaszczak-Boxe
Some rodents have a sweet tooth. And sometimes, you need to get crafty to reach your sugar fix.
Rats have been filmed for the first time using hooked tools to get chocolate cereal – a manifestation of their critter intelligence.
Akane Nagano and Kenjiro Aoyama, of Doshisha University in Kyotanabe, Japan, placed eight brown rats in a transparent box and trained them to pull small hooked tools to obtain the cereal that was otherwise beyond their reach.
In one experiment they gave them two similar hooked tools, one of which worked well for the food retrieval task, and the other did not. The rats quickly learned to choose the correct tool for the job, selecting it 95 per cent of the time.
The experiments showed that the rats understood the spatial arrangement between the food and the tool. The team’s study is the first to demonstrate that rats are able to use tools, says Nagano.