Tag Archives | rats
Toshers were scavengers who explored the vast, ancient sewers of Victorian London in search of lost coins and salvage, but even greater rewards awaited those fortunate enough to encounter the legendary Queen Rat. As Mike Dash of Smithsonian Magazine reports:
…A second myth, far more eagerly believed, told of the existence (Jacqueline Simpson and Jennifer Westwood record) “of a mysterious, luck-bringing Queen Rat”:
This was a supernatural creature whose true appearance was that of a rat; she would follow the toshers about, invisibly, as they worked, and when she saw one that she fancied she would turn into a sexy-looking woman and accost him. If he gave her a night to remember, she would give him luck in his work; he would be sure to find plenty of money and valuables. He would not necessarily guess who she was, for though the Queen Rat did have certain peculiarities in her human form (her eyes reflected light like an animal’s, and she had claws on her toes), he probably would not notice them while making love in some dark corner.
Wondering what creature will inherit the earth after the fall of man in 2012? Well, take a peek at our future masters. Someone tweeted this photo of a gigantic rat, supposedly caught inside a Foot Locker store in the Bronx. Similarly sized rats were spotted in Brooklyn last year (with some photographic evidence as well). Via Gothamist:
Rats are better than many people. The Telegraph writes:
Rats actually display human-like empathy and will unselfishly go to the aid of a distressed fellow rodent, research has shown.
The results of an experiment in which rats opened a door to free trapped cage-mates astonished scientists. No reward was needed and not even the lure of chocolate distracted the rescuing rats.
”This is the first evidence of helping behaviour triggered by empathy in rats,” said US study leader Professor Jean Decety. ”There are a lot of ideas in the literature showing that empathy is not unique to humans, and it has been well demonstrated in apes, but in rodents it was not very clear.”
Psychology graduate student Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal, who helped devise the experiment, pointed out that the rats were not trained in any way. ”These rats are learning because they are motivated by something internal,” she said. ”We’re not showing them how to open the door, they don’t get any previous exposure on opening the door, and it’s hard to open the door.
When a male rat senses the presence of a fetching female rat, a certain region of his brain lights up with neural activity, in anticipation of romance. Now Stanford University researchers have discovered that in male rats infected with the parasite Toxoplasma, the same region responds just as strongly to the odor of cat urine. Is it time to dim the lights and cue the Rachmaninoff for some cross-species canoodling?
“Well, we see activity in the pathway that normally controls how male rats respond to female rats, so it’s possible the behavior we are seeing in response to cat urine is sexual attraction behavior, but we don’t know that,” said Patrick House, a PhD candidate in neuroscience in the School of Medicine. “I would not say that they are definitively attracted, but they are certainly less afraid. Regardless, seeing activity in the attraction pathway is bizarre.”
For a rat, fear of cats is rational.
The New York Times discusses a growing science subculture — the urban evolutionist. These brave souls are charting the growth of the super-strong mutant rats, fish, bacteria, and bugs that will someday overrun planet:
A small but growing number of field biologists study urban evolution — not the rise and fall of skyscrapers and neighborhoods, but the biological changes that cities bring to the wildlife that inhabits them. For these scientists, New York is one great laboratory.
White-footed mice, stranded on isolated urban islands, are evolving to adapt to urban stress. Fish in the Hudson have evolved to cope with poisons in the water. Native ants find refuge in the median strips on Broadway. And more familiar urban organisms, like bedbugs, rats and bacteria, also mutate and change in response to the pressures of the metropolis.
Pollution has driven some of the starkest examples of evolution around New York. Hudson River fish faced a dangerous threat from PCBs, which General Electric released from 1947 to 1977.
June is a special time of year in New York, when the sun warms the city, and the rats come out of hiding and get whisked off to fashion shows in the finest of attire at the Fancy Rat Convention.