Quirks & Quarks

Wild Mice like Running Wheels

Wild rodents seem to enjoy running on exercise wheels just like captive ones....

Wild rodents seem to enjoy running on exercise wheels just like captive ones.

The running wheel is a staple of rodent cages, giving the animals an opportunity for physical activity, and scientists often study that activity for insight into natural exercise and energy levels.  Running wheels, however, don't exist in nature, so there's some doubt about whether wheel-running accurately reflects any kind of natural activity level.  Yuri Robbers, a PhD student from the Laboratory for Neurophysiology at the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, put running wheels in nature and observed how wild animals used them.  Mice, rats and even frogs and slugs used the wheels, possibly as a kind of play behaviour.

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