News Stories

Mice & Birds are a Lot Like Us

We feel more rapport with animals every day?we now know that mice construct road signs so they can find their way around and birds can be duped by "advertising."

Pavel Stopka and David Macdonald wondered how wood mice find their way through fields. They discovered the mice move objects around to mark sites that contain food or a quick route home to their burrow. As the mice explore, they rear up on their back legs to look for one of their signposts.

Researchers already knew that mice piled up leaves and twigs, but thought they were hiding their nest holes. But when some escaped from a box they were being kept in, Stopka says, "One dug a hole through the side, and the last one out marked it with a leaf. We repaired the hole?but when we put them back in they still ran towards the leaf."

Store managers know that if they place an eye-catching sign near an item they want to sell, more people will buy it. The positioning of items in stores is considered to be a science. Researchers wanted to find out if birds could be influenced the same way, so they studied the behavior of hummingbirds.

Scientists created a fake flower bed on a plastic sheet that had small feeding holes filled with different concentrations of sugar water. Normally, the birds would head for the holes with the greatest concentration of sugar, but putting an attractive item next to a hole with less sugar made them go there instead. Dr. Melissa Bateson says, "This research shows that birds, like humans, are actually more irrational than we previously thought."

Don't be a bird brain?find out what's really going on in the world.

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