FEB 13, 2018 08:06 PM PST

Rats Reciprocate Favors Just Like Humans Do

When someone does something thoughtful for you, are you more inclined to help them with something in return? Most people would answer “yes,” but a new study conducted by researchers from the University of St Andrews illustrates how rats might behave similarly.

Do rats help one another out? A new study says yes.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Two things rats enjoy the most are getting groomed and receiving food, and from the study’s results in the journal Current Biology, it’s evident that rats might consider the two to be a fair trade.

In a controlled experiment, the researchers observed Norway rats’ behavior. One of the things they noticed was that when a rat provided food to another, there was a higher chance that the receiving rat would groom the gifting rat. Intriguingly, the trade occurred in reverse too – sometimes the rat offering free grooming sessions would receive food in return.

"We found the rats traded these two services among each other according to the decision rules of direct reciprocity, e.g. 'I help you because you helped me,'" elaborated Dr. Manon Schweinfurth from the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of St Andrews.

"This result indicates that reciprocal trading among non-human animals may be much more widespread than currently assumed," he continued. "It is not limited to large-brained species with advanced cognitive abilities."

Related: Scientists grow a human ear on a rat's back

One of the core lessons learned from the study is how some animals possess innate instincts to respond to kindness by returning the favor, a quality long thought to be unique to humans. Animal experts have seen it before in wild animals, but this is one of the first examples to manifest itself in a laboratory.

Future research could discern additional ways that rats (or other animals) help one another out. It should be interesting to see what researchers find as their endless curiosity continues.

Source: University of St Andrews

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUL 03, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
JUL 03, 2018
Sequencing of Koala Genome Provides Insight Into the Unique Species
Koalas are fascinating animals, and their populations have proven difficult to manage. New work will change that....
JUL 18, 2018
Plants & Animals
JUL 18, 2018
The Secret Behind Deep-Diving Dolphins May Reside in Their Blood
When researchers noticed common bottlenose dolphins in Bermuda diving up to 1,000 meters below the ocean’s surface, they quickly started to wonder wh...
JUL 23, 2018
Plants & Animals
JUL 23, 2018
These Sneaky Monkeys Scavenge Nuts That Are Pre-Cracked by Predators
Throughout West Africa’s Taï National Park, the miniature mangabey monkey scavenges on the remnants of hard nuts that have been cracked open by...
AUG 28, 2018
Plants & Animals
AUG 28, 2018
Migrating Monarch Butterflies Are Experiencing Elevated Parasitism Risks
Monarch butterflies don’t take too kindly to the colder Winter months. The insects naturally avoid the cold by migrating to places that stay warm yea...
SEP 05, 2018
Plants & Animals
SEP 05, 2018
Bigger Birds Dominate Food Sources, Study Finds
Setting out bird feeders stocked with fresh seeds is a common practice among bird lovers and nature appreciators. But would you actually be doing local bir...
SEP 17, 2018
Plants & Animals
SEP 17, 2018
Luck Enabled Scientists to Monitor a Leatherback Sea Turtle Throughout Hurricane Florence
If you’re a sea turtle, and a hurricane is headed right for your turf, what do you do? Scientists can loosely answer this question thanks to years&rs...
Loading Comments...