Animals in the wild found to use running wheel if given the choice (w/ Video)

May 21, 2014 by Bob Yirka report

(Phys.org) —A pair of researchers in the Netherlands has found that if a running wheel is placed outdoors in a natural setting, wild animals will come and run on it. Neurophysiologists Johanna Meijer and Yuri Robbers describe in a paper they've had published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, how they set up running wheels in natural settings then filmed wild animals using the wheels.

Scientists, researchers and animal rights advocates have argued over the years about the nature of mice running on in their cages. Rights activists claim the running is a form or neurotic behavior brought about by living in the confines of a small cage. Some researchers, on the other hand, have suggested that the mice seemed to like, or enjoy running on the wheel, and even exhibited unhappy behavior if a wheel was removed. To learn more, Meijer and Robbers decided to carry out a very simple experiment—they set up a running wheel in their backyard, then used an infrared camera to capture on tape how animals in the wild would respond.

To get things, rolling, so to speak, the researchers also laid down some food near the wheel to attract some animals. They also put the wheel inside an enclosure with a small entranceway to keep large animals from knocking the wheel on its side. Examination of the film showed that a lot of animals found the wheel, climbed on and began running on it. Granted, most of the animals were mice, but the camera also caught frogs, rats, shrews and even slugs. The frogs didn't actually run, they simple hopped form one side to the other causing the wheel to roll back and forth, and the slugs appeared to arrive on the wheel by accident. Still, the results were so encouraging that the team set up another wheel and camera in a nearby dune area not accessible to the general public.

In all the team recorded over 200,000 animals using one or the other of the wheels over a three year period. The main runners were mice, some of which jumped on, ran for a while, jumped off, then jumped back on and ran some more. One mouse ran for an incredible 18 minutes.

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A house mouse using a running wheel

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A slug using a running wheel

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A frog using a running wheel.

The researchers claim the animals ran on the wheels because they enjoyed it, which could be a little bit of anthropomorphizing, as no one has been able to prove that other than humans experience emotions. Still, the experiments should put to rest the argument about whether in the lab are on wheels because they live in cages—they'll do it anywhere they find one.

Explore further: Study of neurogenesis in mice may have solved mystery of childhood amnesia in humans

More information: Wheel running in the wild, Published 21 May 2014 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.0210

Abstract
The importance of exercise for health and neurogenesis is becoming increasingly clear. Wheel running is often used in the laboratory for triggering enhanced activity levels, despite the common objection that this behaviour is an artefact of captivity and merely signifies neurosis or stereotypy. If wheel running is indeed caused by captive housing, wild mice are not expected to use a running wheel in nature. This however, to our knowledge, has never been tested. Here, we show that when running wheels are placed in nature, they are frequently used by wild mice, also when no extrinsic reward is provided. Bout lengths of running wheel behaviour in the wild match those for captive mice. This finding falsifies one criterion for stereotypic behaviour, and suggests that running wheel activity is an elective behaviour. In a time when lifestyle in general and lack of exercise in particular are a major cause of disease in the modern world, research into physical activity is of utmost importance. Our findings may help alleviate the main concern regarding the use of running wheels in research on exercise.

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axemaster
4.7 / 5 (13) May 21, 2014
The researchers claim the animals ran on the wheels because they enjoyed it, which could be a little bit of anthropomorphizing, as no one has been able to prove that animals other than humans experience emotions.


Wow, what an obnoxious statement. Of course you can't prove that. Neither can you prove that any other HUMAN has emotions. The problem isn't that animals don't think or feel anything, it's that we're terrible at interpreting them.

The author should have said:

"The researchers claim the animals ran on the wheels because they enjoyed it, which may or may not be the case, as we aren't good enough at interpreting animals yet."
Eikka
1.7 / 5 (10) May 21, 2014
Neither can you prove that any other HUMAN has emotions.


Yes you can. A researcher who has the opinion that they feel emotions can put themselves in an fMRI and find that they have the same brain activity as any other human while having these emotions, which is a strong indication that other people work the same way.

The point is that we can only infer emotions in other beings through their behaviour because we can't ask them directly, but behaviour does not necessarily imply that the same internal mechanisms are at play. A robot can wave you hello, but that doesn't mean they're actually glad to see you again. The question is solved only when we solve how our own brains work, and then find the same mechanisms in animals, but that's a long way off

There's all sorts of reasons why small critters could be fooled into running a treadmill or a wheel that have nothing to do with enjoyment. The point of the study is just that they don't seem to dislike it to the point of avoidance
Tangent2
4.4 / 5 (7) May 21, 2014
The researchers claim the animals ran on the wheels because they enjoyed it, which could be a little bit of anthropomorphizing, as no one has been able to prove that animals other than humans experience emotions.


Wow, what an obnoxious statement. Of course you can't prove that. Neither can you prove that any other HUMAN has emotions. The problem isn't that animals don't think or feel anything, it's that we're terrible at interpreting them.

The author should have said:

"The researchers claim the animals ran on the wheels because they enjoyed it, which may or may not be the case, as we aren't good enough at interpreting animals yet."


Quite right, you beat me to this post!

Human ignorance and arrogance at it's best.

Just look at how an animal that is "scared" will react compared to an animal that is "content" when interacting with another animal or human. Hell, even my cat gets mad sometimes and starts taking it out on the other bigger cat.
Tangent2
3.7 / 5 (3) May 21, 2014
A robot can wave you hello, but that doesn't mean they're actually glad to see you again.


Now let's extend that idea into a scenario that would actually demonstrate an emotional response, not just some arbitrary action that does not demonstrate one way or the other any emotion, that scenario you proposed is doomed to fail of course.

Take the example of a dog waging it's tail excitedly as it's owner comes into the dog's field of view after being away for a period of time. Compare that reaction with the reaction of a stranger coming into the dog's field of view. Then perform a test with the reaction of the dog from a non biological interaction with the dog.

It is only our perceptions that limit us.
Pejico
May 21, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
PhotonX
4 / 5 (4) May 21, 2014
To advance this study to the next step, we should install a recliner and a computer out in the woods, with a trail of bottled beer leading to it
.
And of course animals express emotions, many if not most mammals at least, and possibly others we don't have so much in common with. People who deny this may be a bit short in the emotive department themselves.
someone11235813
5 / 5 (5) May 21, 2014
The conclusion to this experiment is obvious, that is animals in the wild are already neurotic.
Jonseer
3.7 / 5 (6) May 21, 2014
If science could shed it's religiously rooted notions regarding the inherent superiority of humanity and recognize that we are just the smartest animal it would realize rather than needing to prove animals feel emotions, the opposite is far more logical and sensible.

We should have to prove that animals do NOT feel emotions.

Nothing in evolution ever appeared suddenly fully developed and so completely separate and distinct from anything that came before it.

Yet in claiming only humans feel emotions researchers are indeed claiming that in the case of human evolution this happened, and that's patently absurd.

Like anything it developed in steps, and along the way various other animals shared the same level of development before we sped ahead.

Which means most animals feel emotions of some form even if they don't sit around speculating about them in the abstract.

The truth though is only American and Australians try think this way.

The rest of the world including Europeans don't.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.2 / 5 (5) May 21, 2014
"The researchers claim the animals ran on the wheels because they enjoyed it, which could be a little bit of anthropomorphizing, as no one has been able to prove that animals other than humans experience emotions"

-Well we know they get angry

"The woman, who did not want to be identified, encountered the bear after she became separated from her husband while running in a wooded area near the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage on Monday. The bear, fearing for the safety of her two cubs, attacked."

-and they get scared as well. And they laugh
https://www.youtu...Os-zDt-o
OZGuy
2.3 / 5 (3) May 21, 2014
The truth though is only American and Australians try think this way.

Really and this opinion is based on what?
JRi
5 / 5 (1) May 22, 2014
These animals remind me about by my nephews and nieces on trampoline. Jumping there is simply so fun they can't stop it, although jumping serves no real purpose but amusement.
Lex Talonis
2.7 / 5 (7) May 22, 2014
Where do they dig up these idiots like Bob Yirka from?

"The researchers claim the animals ran on the wheels because they enjoyed it, which could be a little bit of anthropomorphizing, as no one has been able to prove that animals other than humans experience emotions."

Adopt a kitten or a puppy - Mr Shit for brains, and get a life.

gwrede
3 / 5 (4) May 22, 2014
The truth though is only American and Australians try think this way.

Really and this opinion is based on what?
Decades of observation, both in person and reading scientific texts from various countries.

Eikka
1 / 5 (4) May 22, 2014
Take the example of a dog waging it's tail excitedly as it's owner comes into the dog's field of view after being away for a period of time.


That's already anthropomorphizing it by insisting that the dog feels excitement.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.3 / 5 (6) May 22, 2014
Take the example of a dog waging it's tail excitedly as it's owner comes into the dog's field of view after being away for a period of time.


That's already anthropomorphizing it by insisting that the dog feels excitement.
Dogs are already anthropomorphized ie selected for human qualities. This does not mean that they possess qualities that wolves do not, only that these qualities were made more human-like through countless gens of breeding and culling.

Just like we were.

Wolves could vocalize but could not bark until selected for it. Dogs can smile, droop their ears, wag their tails, etc. And of course they feel joy, anger, curiosity, affection, gratitude, etc because thee are qualities found throughout the animal world. It is anthropocentric to think that these qualities are uniquely human. In dogs we have only made them more human-like.

Dogs are 2nd tier domesticates ie domesticated by domesticates.
dedereu
3.7 / 5 (3) May 22, 2014
Animals are lije us, they like to play, in particular all mammals !!
dedereu
1 / 5 (1) May 22, 2014
All animals, even insects, ant, spiders, flies, have emotions like fear, very visible when they try to escape you very fast, when you try to catch them !!!
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet May 22, 2014
Hmm... Treadmill? or run in the woods with all it's attendant "surprises"?
Maybe animals just realize the value of staying in shape...
sirchick
5 / 5 (4) May 22, 2014
When dogs hide under things and shake a lot during a thunderstorm, im pretty sure this is an emotional fear response.

If this is not evidence then what is the criteria required to "prove" emotions in an animal ?

Without the emotion known as fear, many animals would go extinct, including our own species.

Also why didn't they test the wheel on cats and dogs? A slug and frog, could easily just be like confused as to why they are not moving from the spot.

I find it too difficult to imagine a slug went on the wheel out of simple curiosity.
rockwolf1000
5 / 5 (4) May 22, 2014
@Jonseer

"The truth though is only American and Australians try think this way.

The rest of the world including Europeans don't."

You should really try keeping up with current events. It's readily apparent that the vast majority of humans aren't convinced other humans have emotions otherwise we wouldn't have the continuous war and conflict that has plagued our existence. Europeans especially since they are about as uncaring and aggressive as they come. Evidenced by the long and sad tales of imperialism and colonialism.

America and Australia haven't existed long enough to even come close.
bobthechef
1 / 5 (3) May 23, 2014
@rockwold1000 - Oh, cut the bleeding heart nonsense. You sound like you have all of the intellectual depth of a "sensitive" 5th grader ("People start wars because they're mean and don't care! Why?!?"). Whether something is the right course of actions isn't dependent on emotions. According to your worldview, we should live as slaves to the neurotic and the hysterical because we don't want to hurt their feelings. Reason, take a backseat, because emotions have primacy! Is that what you want? And stop demonizing Europe. I know it's the fashionable thing to do among the white middle class (WMC), but Europe dominated the world because it could. You think no one else conquered others or wanted to conquer others? You bet they did! But no one was as effective as the Europeans of the Renaissance at colonizing the world. Europe is where modern science came into being and this is no accident. Every other primitive attempt was child's play in comparison. And now the West is in decline.
bobthechef
1 / 5 (3) May 23, 2014
Of course it's anthropomorphic to say that animals experience emotions, but that's how science works. Science doesn't begin in a vacuum, it begins with a certain cultural doxa, it begins with what we know/believe. All scientific theories are working theories. They are our best guess. In 100 years time, it is possible that they will be superseded by something more refined. So a first natural reaction is to say that animals do experience emotion. Is it an absolute truth? No! But there's no sense in sounding the alarm because we're not totally sure and injecting doubt irrationally and chaotically into everything we believe or know. Believe what you will, but that what is generally believed. Show that it's wrong and the belief will change. Science isn't about haphazard doubting. It's about replacing certainties with greater certainties. The truth is our aim, not our possession. The approach of some seems to be a refusal to live in a hut because it isn't a castle. Fine! Live outside!
rockwolf1000
5 / 5 (1) May 23, 2014
@rockwold1000 - Oh, cut the bleeding heart nonsense. You sound like you have all of the intellectual depth of a "sensitive" 5th grader .

Are you on crack or something?

"And stop demonizing Europe." Or what? You gonna start crying?

You think it's ok for someone to say this: "The truth though is only American and Australians try think this way." Then give me a hard time for criticizing Europe?

"And now the West is in decline." Europe has been in decline since 1492. when Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
Get a grip on reality retard. The last thing I am is a bleeding heart. And if you could actually understand the things you read you would know that you freaking jerk off.
Europe is a freaking dump! Has been for centuries.

"Europe is where modern science came into being" It is also the place where World War I & II came into being. Are you super proud about that too? Disgusting!
rockwolf1000
not rated yet May 23, 2014
@bobthechef
Are you gonna cook up another steaming pile of bullshit for us? I suggest you eat it. I don't want any!
douglasjbender
not rated yet May 23, 2014
I say these findings are the result of natural self-selection. After all, the wild animals came from the same neighborhood as the researchers.
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) May 24, 2014
Dogs are already anthropomorphized ie selected for human qualities.


Wrong. They're selected for specific behaviour.

That's where the weakness of the argument lies. You don't -actually- know whether the dog is excited in the same sense as people, or just responding to a specific cue in an automatic fashion due to breeding or some form of instinctual communication. You just interpret it that way and the rest is wishful thinking.

That isn't to say that animals don't or can't have emotions, even equivalent emotions to us, but that proving so is mighty difficult and wrought with our bias to interpret any behaviour from animals as if coming from another human. People anthropomorphize rocks and trees and computers the same way!

The real meaning of "excitement" to a dog remains a mystery until we solve the mechanisms of emotion in our own brain, so we could compare and contrast what is happening in their brain. Everything else is just conjecture.
Eikka
1 / 5 (1) May 24, 2014
Then there's also the philosophical argument of, is it meaningful to have emotions in the case the animal has no self? Who then is being sad or excited?

Say, if a mouse is such a simple animal that it doesn't have self-awareness, can it then be said to be happy? An if so, wouldn't that then extend to other things that presumably don't have self-awareness, such as bacterium?
axemaster
5 / 5 (1) May 24, 2014
That's where the weakness of the argument lies. You don't -actually- know whether the dog is excited in the same sense as people, or just responding to a specific cue in an automatic fashion due to breeding or some form of instinctual communication. You just interpret it that way and the rest is wishful thinking.


An interesting argument, but I think it's wrong. I would argue that "automatic responses" are always accompanied by appropriate emotional responses. Look at a few analogs in humans.

1. A spider drops from the ceiling and lands on your hand. You automatically shake it off violently. Your emotional state is shock/fear.

2. A cute fluffy puppy jumps in your lap. Your semi-automatic response is to pet it / make it happy. Your emotional state is "warmth".

You could easily argue that both of these are evolved responses - the spider due to danger, the puppy due to coexistence with dogs. Are there any automatic human responses that occur independently from emotion?
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (3) May 24, 2014
Where do they dig up these idiots
@lex
for the really BIG idiots, the best place to find them is phys.org comments: anyone with a rating 1.8 or below AND who complains about articles, maligns writers for their choice of words, people who deny science and ignore empirical data, the ones who call people they don't like "shit for brains" even though they only know about an article, rather than the person themselves...
People start wars because they're mean and don't care! Why?
@bobthechef
this is essentially the reason, though we also try to justify it with rational thoughts (usually based upon irrational thoughts & feelings like religion, desire, greed and hate) so there is much truth in the comment, he just simplified it
According to your worldview
If you are going to make an assumption on someone's post and state of mind, you should post supporting evidence as well as links/proof from their post, and show a trend
Eikka
1 / 5 (2) May 26, 2014
I would argue that "automatic responses" are always accompanied by appropriate emotional responses. Look at a few analogs in humans.


Reflex action doesn't necessarily need to be followed by any sort of emotional response. The emotional response comes after the fact as a secondary response to the state resulting from the reflex, such as the adrenalin released in the fight/flight response.

The same adrenalin release can trigger different emotional states, such as joy, hate, fear, anxiety depending on the context and the attitude of the person experiencing the emotion, so clearly emotions are not simply reflex responses in themselves. A person might even flick the spider off by reflex, and then think nothing of it.

So you don't actually know what the person or animal feels after an automatic response has gone through. It's why someone likes bungee jumping and someone else is afraid of bees.
someone11235813
not rated yet Jul 04, 2014

Wolves could vocalize but could not bark until selected for it.



If they could do that why the cuss didn't they select for crooning instead.