Running wild…in wheels
Many of us use gym to rectify the lack of exercise imposed by urban lifestyles. Where we have treadmills, pet or laboratory mice have running wheels. Researchers from Netherlands report that wild animals also enjoy a run on the wheel.
Mice serve as a major model organism for many areas of research, including cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Many studies use wheel running in laboratory mice to investigate the impact of exercise on health. However, some worry that wheel running is an unnatural behavior resulting from captivity. Johanna Meijer and Yuri Robbers from Leiden University Medical Centre, Netherlands, tested whether wild mice in their natural habitats would also use running wheels.
The researchers placed running wheels in natural habitats of mice (pictured), setting up motion detectors and cameras that would record animals during wheel running. Over the course of 3 years, they analyzed 12,000 video recordings and found feral mice and other wild animals – even frogs and slugs! – use running wheels (pictured). Since these animals often came back to the wheels within minutes to continue running even in the absence of food to lure them, the researchers suggest that wheel running is a voluntary behavior in wild animals.
The question remains as to why animals choose to run in the wheels. Wheel running could be a rewarding experience, the authors of the study say.
Below is a compilation of some of the video recordings from the experiment made by LiveScience. Enjoy!