City mice are SMARTER than their country cousins! Rodents in urban areas are better at problem solving as they’ve had to adapt to living alongside humans, study reveals

  • Thirty-one striped field mice were captured from the wild as part of the study 
  • Scientists gave them a set of challenges in a cage where they had to get to food
  • City mice were successful 77% of the time; rural mice managed it 52% of the time
  • Researchers believe this is because living alongside humans forced the mice to become savvier  

Mice living in built-up areas are smarter than rodents living in the countryside, new research reveals. 

Streetwise mice developed improved problem-solving abilities because their  coexistence with humans in cities forced them to become savvier, experts believe.

German researchers found that when presented with a conundrum, mice from the metropolis of Berlin were able to solve it 77 per cent of the time. 

However, mice captured from the rural area of Uckermark in Germany only managed to find a solution half the time (52 per cent). 

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German researchers found that when presented with a conundrum, mice from the metropolis of Berlin were able to solve it 77 per cent of the time. However, mice captured from the rural area of Uckermark in Germany only managed to find a solution half the time (52 per cent)

Mice are city slickers 

Researchers put mice in a custom-built enclosure with a Lego house containing food to see if the mice could figure out how to open it in order to get to the meal. 

Another challenge involved seeing if the mice could slide open the lid of a box containing a reward. 

While the city mice were smarter and showed a greater ability to navigate the obstacle, rural rodents were more determined with greater persistence. 

‘Problem-solving ability could thus be a contributing factor to the successful coping with the rapid and recent expansion of human-altered environments,’ the researchers write in their study.  

Thirty-one striped field mice were captured from the wild as part of the study; 14 mice came from Berlin and 17 from the countryside. 

Researchers from the University of Potsdam and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology then put them in a custom-built enclosure with a challenge. 

A Lego house inside the cage contained food, but the mice had to figure out how to open it in order to get to the meal. 

Another challenge involved seeing if the mice could slide open the metal lid of a plastic box which stood between them and a reward. 

While the city mice were smarter and showed a greater ability to navigate the obstacle, rural rodents were more determined and showed greater persistence. 

 

Thirty-one striped field mice were captured from the wild as part of the study; 14 mice came from Berlin and 17 from the countryside

Researchers believe this is likely because in their natural habitat of the big city, the urban mice would be better off pillaging another source of litter rather than sticking with one that is particularly difficult.

But for mice living outside of towns, food opportunities are sparser, so it is important to make the most of an opportunity when presented with one. 

‘Investing too much time in attempting to get one item would create a higher missed opportunity cost compared to rural habitats where food sources could be more unevenly distributed in space or time, thus making persistence advantageous,’ the researchers explain in their paper, published in the journal Animal Behaviour.

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