Scientists compare lazy rats to teenagers

Apr 06, 2006
rat

Scientists say they've discovered a mole-rat whose lifestyle strikes them as being similar to that of some teenagers.

The Kalahari Desert's subterranean Damaraland mole-rat lives in an "ensocial organization" -- a social structure similar to that of ants, but unique among mammals, the London Telegraph reported Thursday.

University of Pretoria researchers Michael Scantlebury, Nigel Bennett and colleagues say some of the mole-rats are industrious, while others are fat and lazy.

The industrious mole-rats are active year-round, while the lazy, infrequent workers spend much of their time resting.

The scientists suspect the lazy mole-rats are on "standby" to invade new territories or to search for food during lean times. In other words, they told The Telegraph, the lazier animals help ensure the long-term survival of the colony's gene pool.

Scantlebury said: "One way to think about this is to imagine the infrequent workers are like older teenagers. They do nothing around the house and they eat all your food. Yet you tolerate them because they are your only way to spread your genes into the wider world."

The study is reported in the journal Nature.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Researcher unravels century-old woolly tale to find truth behind massive bones

Related Stories

Light echo helps researchers map out parts of galaxy

2 hours ago

Thousands of years before humans invented agriculture, a bright burst of X-rays left the dense neutron star Circinus X-1, located in the faint Southern constellation Circinus. A year and a half ago, those ...

Cuban, US scientists bond over big sharks

2 hours ago

Somewhere in the North Atlantic right now, a longfin mako shark—a cousin of the storied great white—is cruising around, oblivious to the yellow satellite tag on its dorsal fin.

Gimmicks and technology: California learns to save water

3 hours ago

Billboards and TV commercials, living room visits, guess-your-water-use booths, and awards for water stinginess—a wealthy swath of Orange County that once had one of the worst records for water conservation ...

Recommended for you

Lady, you're on the money

20 hours ago

So far, women whose portraits appear on U.S. money have been a party of three. Excluding commemorative currency, only Sacagawea, Susan B. Anthony and Helen Keller appear on coins in general circulation, according ...

Old World monkey had tiny, complex brain

22 hours ago

The brain hidden inside the oldest known Old World monkey skull has been visualized for the first time. The creature's tiny but remarkably wrinkled brain supports the idea that brain complexity can evolve ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.