Friday, July 27, 2007

Invasive Species: Rats and Pythons

The Asian python has infiltrated the glades of Florida, courtesy of negligent pet-owners who have become overwhelmed by their exotic friends.

Rats must have been an early invader, traveling everywhere by ship, land bridge, etc. They are smart animals who enjoy sex, have similar immunology and addiction behaviors as humans, are compassionate to other rats, and also know what they know and know what they don't know. In one experiment, rats were rewarded with a large treat for correctly discerning the length of a beep. The rat had a choice of pressing a long bar for an 8s beep, and a short bar for a 2s beep. The rat also had the option to stick its nose through a hole and receive a small treat if the rat couldn't decide how long the beep was. Discerning between 2s and 8s beeps was easy for the rats, but as the beep length approached 5s, the rats more frequently opted to stick their nose in the "I don't know" box and get a small reward. The recent NY times article on rats is wonderful. The NYT is free online, but you do have to register to access their articles.

Obviously, we need to breed larger rats to recapture or possibly eat the pythons. As an alternative, don't buy snakes for pets. Rescue a cat or bird instead. I would like a pet bird, but I don't think I have time, since they are very social creatures.

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