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Science

Even In the Wild Mice Run In Wheels 122

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the gym-for-field-mice dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Scientists have found that if they place a running wheel outside, wild animals will flock to it. The researchers observed more than 200,000 mice, rats, and even frogs using the apparatus over a three year period. The findings suggest that like (some) humans, mice and other animals may simply exercise because they like to. Figuring out why certain strains of mice are more sedentary than others could help shed light on genetic differences between more active and sedentary people."
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Even In the Wild Mice Run In Wheels

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  • I'm sedentary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by i kan reed (749298) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @09:33AM (#47055555) Homepage Journal

    Most of the time I'm sedentary it's because my job has me sit at a desk typing code(or slashdot comments) all day. This is exacerbated for most people, because they attach an hour or more of sedentary driving onto each end.

    And being sedentary is mentally exhausting compared to light exercise. It's no surprise that there's an obesity epidemic.

    • by jythie (914043)
      Which is part of why there is such an interest in standing desks or other ways of getting people moving during the day.
      • by Russ1642 (1087959)

        I haven't seen any interest. I've only ever seen one standing desk and that was because someone had a back problem, not an exercise thing. I've never seen a treadmill at a workstation. I haven't heard of anyone wanting one either. So no, I don't think there's ANY interest from anybody other than the people selling them.

        • by smart_ass (322852)

          Try getting out of North America.
          They are all over the place in Europe.

          I travel for work and there are lots of great ideas out there if we could see past our own cubicle walls.

          Not just standing desks, but hydraulic ones that allow you to switch from sitting to standing throughout the day with little effort to "re-configure" the workstation.

      • It is easy to get office workers to exercise. Just put the coffee machine and the toilets at opposing ends of the building.
        • by Kelbear (870538)

          This happened at my previous job, it was about a quarter-mile walk to get to the coffee in the cafeteria (no free coffee). The bathrooms over there were also much cleaner since they were more inconvenient to reach, (so of course I took the extra walk for a cleaner toilet). Took about 10 minutes to walk there and back. It adds up over the course of the day.

    • Maybe, but don't forget about the loads of sugar that has been added to all kinds of food, even tea bags!
    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      Most of the time I'm sedentary it's because my job has me sit at a desk typing code(or slashdot comments) all day. This is exacerbated for most people, because they attach an hour or more of sedentary driving onto each end.

      And being sedentary is mentally exhausting compared to light exercise. It's no surprise that there's an obesity epidemic.

      Your point is right, but to be correct "most people" spend 25 minutes driving on either end of their day. Hourlong commutes might be common for drivers in big cities but are the exception nationally.

  • A colleague of mine ( who has an animal nickname BTW, we call him "Bokito", you may wanna google that ) has a great poster on his whiteboard, with a picture of a treadmill on it: "This is what a career ladder looks like". 'Nuf said.
  • mice ... may simply exercise because they like to.

    Hence the term, "Gym Rats".

    Thank you, thank you. Remember to tip the waitstaff, I'll be here all week.

  • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @09:43AM (#47055651) Journal

    They discounted animals setting the wheel in motion from the outside.

    Random anecdote time.

    I knew someone who had a hamster that would climb on to the outside of the wheel, kind of wedge itself between the wheel and cage and then spend ages using the wheel from the outside. It was also a remarkably stupid animal. Unlike ever other captive rodent I've seen it never figured out how to walk on the bars of the upper floors of the cage without its feet falling through the gaps. And unlike most other hamsters it was not a very clean animal either.

    Sometimes the wheel would get moved. In which case there was no cage wall nearby for it to wedge itself against. In that case it would get to the top then the wheel would start to rotatetaking the hapless rodent with it and it would get splatted off onto the floor which was pretty funny.

    • by dbarron (286)

      Did I know you when I was younger? I had a hamster that did this.

      • Did I know you when I was younger? I had a hamster that did this.

        Unlikely unless you grew up in south-west London and had the hamster some time in the early/mid 90's.

        Interestingly, it seems that there this may be a more common thing with hamsters than I realised.

    • There was a pet shop - I think this was in the North East of England but I cannot remember why I would have been in a pet shop so maybe not - that had a cage of chipmunks.

      Two of them (always the same two) would get onto a wheel side by side and then run like mad.

      One was slightly faster/had more stamina than the other one and eventually the other one couldn't keep up at which point it just held on and got a ride "over the top". The wheel would then come to a standstill and then they'd start all over again.

      Wa

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Here you go:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VuMdLm0ccU

  • Slugs apprently frequent this thing (hard to call it a running wheel when's a slug).
  • The story itself is interesting enough, opening it up to all kinds of hypothesis. Don't ruin it by adding the typically inane verbiage:

    "Figuring out why certain strains of mice are more sedentary than others could help shed light on genetic differences between more active and sedentary people."

    • by PIBM (588930)

      They are just looking for some funding...

    • The story itself is interesting enough, opening it up to all kinds of hypothesis. Don't ruin it by adding the typically inane verbiage:

      "Figuring out why certain strains of mice are more sedentary than others could help shed light on genetic differences between more active and sedentary people."

      That was the only way to get the taxpayer-funded grant to pay for the ... "study".

  • by Wycliffe (116160) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @09:53AM (#47055727) Homepage

    It seems a stretch to jump from "wild mice run in a treadmill" to "mice like to exercise".
    What if the treadmill is similiar to what laser pointers are to cats or video games are to humans?
    It could be that the mice thinks it's accomplishing something or has some other reason that
    it uses the treadmill other than because it likes to exercise.

    • by mr_mischief (456295) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @10:08AM (#47055819) Journal

      Maybe it's a dumb mouse never quite finding the source of the pheremone trail it's following.

    • by Zocalo (252965)
      Not sure they are claiming that a desire to exercise is the motive so much that it's the end result of the activity - the wording could definitely be clearer on that point. Presumably the creatures are getting something out it it (unless they get stuck on the wheel and don't realise what's going on, which seems likely in some cases). Jumping to the conclusion it's out of a desire to exercise is definitely a stretch though; as you note, it could just as easily be some kind of game like a dog chasing its ta
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @11:45AM (#47056763)

      If they REALLY consider it a piece of exercise equipment, then the mice will hang laundry on it after a few weeks..

      • by Zynder (2773551)
        ...and then put it up for sale on craigslist a month after it fills up with laundry.
  • Just because they exercise doesn't mean that is what it is... they may have been brought into the wheel because of curiosity, and are trying to escape by running away.
    • Re:They may be stuck (Score:4, Informative)

      by pr0nbot (313417) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @10:12AM (#47055845)

      The paper states that animals would enter the wheel, leave it, and then re-enter it. That could be accidental but doesn't suggest escape.

    • by clovis (4684)

      I thought so too, but the authors seem to think it was voluntary:
      "Some animals seem to use the wheel unintentionally, but mice and some shrews, rats and frogs were seen to leave the wheel and then enter it again within minutes in order to continue wheel running."

      Also, they typically ran for less than a minute rather than running to exhaustion, and the running times were similar to lab rats' running.
      It's too bad we can't just ask them. I've always wondered what my dogs and two-year olds were thinking.

    • Re:They may be stuck (Score:4, Informative)

      by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @11:26AM (#47056529)

      hey may have been brought into the wheel because of curiosity, and are trying to escape by running away.

      Saw a short video related to this last night.

      The mouse in question came up to the thing, climbed on, ran as fast as its little legs would carry it for a few seconds, till it was about 40 degrees from vertical...then stopped and let the thing carry him back and forth till to halted.

      Then he got off, took a few steps, turned around, and repeated the whole process.

      Personally, I think they were doing it for the fun factor - "Hey, guys! Watch this!"....

      • Personally, I think they were doing it for the fun factor

        Given that they can just run around on the ground (or whatever), this makes sense.

  • by overshoot (39700) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @10:04AM (#47055799)
    We have IR cameras set up to watch the back yard at night. There's a fox that spends a lot of time there, and she seems to have brought a toy (a tennis ball) with her. She plays with it a lot.
  • I'm going to set up an array of training wheels with generators outside my garage, and harvest free power to charge my Tesla S! Or a flashlight. A small one..

  • So, maybe someone needs to design a mouse trap knowing this.

    Put it in the middle of your kitchen, when the mice stop by and go "oooh, shiny wheel" ... blamo.

    I'm not sure what exact mechanism of blamo would work within a wheel, but that's an exercise for whoever gets to the patent office first. ;-)

    But if they're drawn to it, it sounds like it would be effective.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Attach a small alternator and feed the electricity back to the metal of the wheel. Instant Mouse Zapper!

    • by PPH (736903) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @11:38AM (#47056679)

      Centrifuge. As soon as the mouse starts running, the rotation is detected and a motor kicked on to drive the RPM up to 50 or 60K. Mouse parts get squeezed through bars on wheel.

      Now pardon me while I go back to eating my breakfast.

      • I can see this as an excellent way to rid one's backyard of offending vermin.
        Brings whole new meaning to the phrase "squirrel cage motor".

    • by ganjadude (952775)
      go with the old trapdoor method, As soon as he gets in the wheel and it starts moving it knocks the stick out thats holding the lid and slams shut. Not only do you not harm the mouse, but you get to watch it run and run and run!
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Not only do you not harm the mouse, but you get to watch it run and run and run!

        "No, Mr. Mouse, I expect you to run"

        But, seriously, what if you had more than one mouse? Eventually you'd end up with a RAIM (redundant array of incarcerated mice) you have no use for.

  • Maybe they aren't exercising.. perhaps they are climbing in to investigate what it is, start to walk/run and just can't get out as they don't yet understand it? I'd buy that more than an animal exercising because it wants to. Sure animals can be very smart.. but I don't see them being vain as some humans, or worried about their figure.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      As has been pointed out elsewhere ... they get in, they run, they get out, they get back in and run.

      So, it doesn't seem like they can't get out (because they do), and it's not like they're just running endlessly (they apparently run the same length as captive ones).

      Either it's intriguing, novel, or something passing for fun.

      And, no, I doubt the mice are watching their figures.

      I'm betting this gets them an IgNobel, because it's some pretty out there stuff, but is nonetheless cool and interesting.

    • Maybe they aren't exercising.. perhaps they are climbing in to investigate what it is, start to walk/run and just can't get out as they don't yet understand it? I'd buy that more than an animal exercising because it wants to. Sure animals can be very smart.. but I don't see them being vain as some humans, or worried about their figure.

      Most animals, mammals anyway, enjoy playing. I think you're right that it's not random physical activity they are after, but rather it's a fun, playful activity, and that's why they are drawn to do it. I can't buy that they don't understand it - rodents are much smarter than people give them credit for.

      The squirrels in my back yard really love the bird feeders I put out, which was no big deal until they got greedy with it. They knocked it off the deck and then figured out how to unscrew the feeder from

  • Amusement park rides are fun.
  • According to Adams [wikia.com]:

    Mice are merely the protrusion into our dimension of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings who, unbeknownst to the human race, are the most intelligent species on the planet Earth. They spent a lot of their time in laboratories running complex experiments on humans.

  • by bickerdyke (670000) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @10:40AM (#47056119)

    Like, if you'd put a swing somewhere near a human inhabited area, enough people would swing on it. (adult specimen for some reason only when they don't feel watched)

    Or a sign "Wet paint". Another mystery of the universe why nobody believes such signs without checking for themselves.

    • How about when you have the heat turned down and when you come home your wife turns it up to 90?

  • This wheel produced a constant stream of wildlife. Based on 200 000 animals, over 3 years, that works out to 7 animals an hour, or one every 8 minutes and 30 seconds, assuming it is in use 24 hours a day.

    So why don't exterminators use a wheel to get rid of mice infestations? Create a box, which has a upper container for the wheel, when the wheel does a full rotation, the wheel floor drops away dropping the mouse into a lower level. Which can then be removed with the trapped mice.

  • Link found on 94.5FM the Buzz [thebuzz.com] under Links & Guests:

    Rodents on Turntables [youtube.com]
  • attache a generator, hook it up to the grid and fix the energy crisis and global warming.
  • by Vegan Cyclist (1650427) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @11:17AM (#47056437) Homepage
    In a way i can totally relate to this - i'm a fairly high-level bike racer, and if i don't ride for 2-3 days, i find i start to get moody and restless, and it's *always* cured by getting out and getting my heart going a bit. Even a walk will make the difference. I wasn't active as a kid, only really started in my 20's, but ever since i started, i need to keep active to keep in a good headspace...and i know of several other riders who say the same thing. Their partners actually tell them to get out and ride because they get in a state when they're inactive. Maybe in a way other species are responding to some kind of natural need to keep active....?
  • They got me with that one.
  • Step 3: some mats in front of the wheel for the girl mice to stretch on for half their visit.

    We can finally prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that treadmill in gym >>> running around in boring outdoors.

  • I got a squirrel that does stomach crunches and works the speedbag.

  • They don't like it because they love to exercise.

    They like it because it's something, a technology, that's new to them that does not exist in nature.

    What this tells me is that animals will explore whatever technology they have access to that they can interact with.

    To me that's far more fascinating and profound than merely concluding they like to exercise.
  • I think they should get more funding to put a great big running wheel on a busy Manhattan street corner.
  • "The study "puts a nail in the coffin" of the debate over whether mice and rats will run on wheels in a natural setting..."

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