Killer Rats and Monster Cockroaches
Posted by Richard Conniff on July 8, 2013
Life on the little ecosystem of a ship at sea can be strange, and two items I happened to come across today made me stop and think about that. The first is a report in the current issue of the scholarly journalAnimal Behaviour with the curious title “Do ship rats display predatory behaviour towards house mice?”
This is probably not the question you wake up thinking about most mornings, unless you happen to be aboard one of our leading cruise ships. But a group of experts in New Zealand set out to answer the question for an eminently practical reason: They want to eliminate ship rats (Rattus rattus) from local forests, where the invasive and highly aggressive rats are a deadly threat to nesting birds and other native species. But when they manage to get rid of the rats, the population of invasive house mice just increases to fill the gap. And the mice are a problem too.
In the interest of getting rid of both, the researchers wanted to know: Are the rats just scaring off the mice? Or do they actually prey on them?
It’s always entertaining to find out how scientists answer such questions, especially given the requirement to do so humanely. In this case, the co-authors report, “Dead mice were attached to fishing line … to read the rest of this story, click here.