Wednesday, June 25, 2014

2254 Playing Field

Read an interesting article the other day about animals at play. Scientific types used to think the one thing that separated humans from animals was that we knew how to play and they didn't. B.F. Skinner, Pavlov and their behaviorist cronies said everything was just genetics and conditioning. Ring that bell, Fido, and get a treat. Anyone who's ever seen Fido on the beach chasing a Frisbee knows differently. Play is it's own reward.

Researchers in the Netherlands decided to check it out. They went out to a field and set up an exercise wheel. The kind rats in labs use. The theory was that rats in the lab used the exercise wheel to deal with the anxiety or boredom of being in a cage. Not what you'd call play. 

The scientists first set up the wheels with food bait. They attracted animals, including mice, who used the wheel. Then they took away the food. And the visits quadrupled. Left to their own devices the mice used the wheeled device and thought it was nice. They were having fun. They were playing. 

Interestingly, they used the wheels for time periods similar to their lab counterparts, also reaching similar speeds. The findings suggest that mice are good substitutes for humans in similar behavioral tests. Or possibly that LA Fitness has a whole new revenue stream to consider. Either human-sized wheels or tiny treadmills. 

Another interesting finding from the research was that it wasn't just mice that played on the exercise wheel. They also found it used by frogs and shrews and get this -- slugs. 

Truth is stranger than fiction. A slug on an exercise wheel. Does it get any stranger? Perhaps the whole concept of slugs at play? 

Look Mommy, frolicking slugs...

America, ya gotta love it. 

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