Other Mammals - Sounds Wild
Neophobic Rats


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Neophobic rats

Man is rats' best friend. Humans provide food and shelter for rodents, but most importantly, humans provide transportation. Rats have long profited from their close association with humans, tagging along as people colonized the Earth. This "commensal" trait is just one of the qualities that have helped rats and mice spread throughout the world.

Three rodent species have caused the most profound problems worldwide: the Norway rat, the roof rat and the house mouse. All breed year-round, have short gestation periods and large litters. They quickly populate new environs and recover rapidly when their numbers are reduced.

One thing that makes rats so successful is their feeding behavior, a sophisticated balance of caution and curiosity. Rats have a strong dive to explore and will thoroughly learn all aspects of their home environment. This inquisitive behavior would make rats easy to trap or poison if it wasn't inhibited by another behavior called neophobia - a fear of new things. Rats will quickly detect but shy away from new objects in their environment.

"It's a perfect strategy for survival," Dunlevy said. "There are always some segments of a population that are at extremes - very cautious or very curious - so one segment or the other will survive or be favored by natural selection."