We, humans, do enjoy patting ourselves on the back for being the most intelligent species. We created fire, used tools, invented electricity, created the internet and pondered the meaning of it all – although I don’t think we have figured out that one just yet. While we are a little bit ahead of other species, we are not the only intelligent life form on the planet.
For years we have pointed to a wide variety of primates and other animals like dolphins for showing intelligent actions. Another animal that continues to surprise, is the rat. While most people hate to have rats in the house we are continually impressed with their actions in the laboratory. Now they have gone one step further, rats have learned how to drive!
Drive to Reward
In a recent experiment, rats were placed inside a small vehicle that had a steering wheel and a small motor. Whenever the rats touched the steering wheel the car would drive forward. Depending on what position of the wheel they touched it would go in that direction. The test was to see if the rats would drive themselves to a reward and they did. The rats actually managed to drive in different patterns with success. Amazing!
The study also found that the rats rather enjoyed driving. By studying the rats’ fecal matter it revealed that those who had taken up driving were less stressed. This doesn´t make sense to most of us who are often stressed by being stuck in traffic jams. Of course, the rats aren´t stressed yet, there are not enough of them in cars to cause traffic problems yet.
The study highlights that rats are more intelligent than first thought. While we have had rats running around mazes for years, the study shows they are capable of more. Indeed the lead researcher went on to say they we likely underestimate the intelligence of all animal life on Earth. So an exciting time and a final word of warning. If you are afraid of rats in your house because now, they can drive!