Researchers tickle rats for all their science secrets

Whether everyone agrees with the ethics of it or not, scientists have long turned their instruments on rats. They are close to human in basic physiology, their quick lifespans make it easier to study effects across multiple generations and, like grad students, they work for pizza.

But, what if all of our drugs and beakers aren’t getting answers out of rats fast enough? What if they’re learning to hold out on that sweet, sweet science data?

And that’s when we start tickling them.

"Unleash the knowledge! Unleash it!"
“Unleash the knowledge! Unleash it!”

In other news: science has a surplus of rat urine, now.

Foodies taking out endangered species

For extra flavor, harvesters hug the pangolin before punting it into the grinder.
For extra flavor, harvesters hug the pangolin before punting it into the grinder.

We knew about the usual threats to endangered animals: deforestation, industrial development and pollution, picnic baskets filled with gluten (we’ll miss Boo-boo and his allergies, too, Yogi). What we didn’t expect were foodies eating their way through the protected species list like a Brazilian steakhouse menu.

According to findings published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, humans are driving at least 300 wild mammal species to extinction because those animals are either (a) secretly delicious or (b) get a lot of Instagram “likes” as plate selfies.

Apparently, people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America are eating everything from “rats to rhinoceros, […] docile, ant-eating pangolins as well as flesh-ripping big cats” — which reminds The Guys of our favorite book, If I Ran the Zoo … if The Zoo was a pen-to-table restaurant directly across the street from the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in trendy Adams Morgan, DC.

So, way to go, foodies. Because you couldn’t just eat a normal cow burger like the rest of us, we’re winning the War on Animals.

We smell a cyber rat

No, we’re not talking about the return of the Cybermen on the most recent episode of Doctor Who. But, according to this story, that’s not far off.

Scientists from Tel Aviv University in Israel have restored brain function in test rats’ disabled cerebellums (they started on the right track) with a synthetic one (and then leapt right off onto the wrong one). Sure, they only taught the rat to blink to a sound tone, but the goal is to eventually “replicate complex areas of the brain,” which could restore full function to the disabled or even improve undamaged brains.

The only silver lining is that there will now be some competition with the cockroaches to succeed the human race should we lose this war.

Warrior of the Week: Mr. Xian

We’ve seen plenty of stories about giant animals. Finding fossils and signs of long dead animals that were colossal beasts in their time is nothing out of the ordinary.

But what happens when the giant animal wasn’t so much a fossil as it was freshly murdered?

It must’ve happened in China, that’s what.

A giant rat was found in China. A residential area in Fuzhou was infested with a foot long Chinese bamboo rat, though its nightmarish rampage was brought to an end by a courageous rat-catcher mysteriously known only as Mr. Xian. Yes, Mr. Xian bravely caught the evil monster and then kept it from terrorizing any other happy people of China. Thoroughly enthusiastic with what he did (and rightfully so), after catching the beast, he then ran into a crowd proclaiming:

“I did it, I caught a rat the size of a cat!”

You sure did, buddy. You sure did.

The ultimate fate of the rat is unknown, but here’s a hint as to what may happen:

Chinese bamboo rats are often sold for meat in Chinese markets.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go order some cashew chicken from the Chinese place not to far from me.

OK, who’s been slacking?

Listen, animal warriors. When you tell us you’re doing your part to keep all animal life at bay, we believe you. Why? Because we thought we could trust you.

So, do you want to explain why scientists found over 1,000 new and thought-to-be-extinct species stuffed in the Mekong Delta? Did you think we wouldn’t eventually look in there?

It’s not just the deception that hurts, but look what’s been sitting in there this whole time:

  • 11 million-year-old rats
  • Spiders with foot long(!) legspans
  • Hot pink cyanide-producing dragon millipedes
  • Bright green pit vipers
  • Horned bovines

It’s like you’re trying to hide the worst from us.

Fortunately, the people of the Mekong are trying to help clean up your mess.

“There are cultural obstacles to protecting rare species, too. Many restaurants serve them as food. Restaurants often have rickety bamboo floors that one can look through to see cages filled with exotic animals, [Dekila] Chungyalpa [, Director of the World Wildlife Fund’s Mekong Program,] says. The more exotic the animal, the more status it often bestows on the person who consumes it.”

Until you prove that you’re trustworthy, we’re afraid that we cannot give you nice things anymore. Now get back to work. We don’t want to see you until dinner. (It’s Ocelot Helper Night.)