Running wild…in wheels Running wild…in wheels – SOMETHING ABOUT SCIENCE

Running wild…in wheels

Photo credit: Mike on Flickr

Photo credit: Mike on Flickr

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 experimental setup. Image from the report

The experimental setup. Image from the report.

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.

Mouse, frog, and slug on running wheel. Image from the report.

Mouse, frog, and slug on running wheel. Image from the report.

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!

The study was published in Proceedings of Royal Society on May 21 and is freely accessible (open access) from the journal’s website.

Lynn Kimlicka

I am a scientist-turned writer and editor, who loves to read and write (more than doing experiments). I have a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology, with a specialization in structural biology. My interests range widely, from life sciences to pop culture and arts to music. I am bilingual in English and Japanese.

2 Responses

  1. Cathy says:

    Yeah I heard about this one in a pod cast before. It’s pretty interesting….even slugs enjoy some exercise

    • Lynn Kimlicka says:

      Thanks for the comment, Cathy. It’s quite baffling that the animals choose to run in the wheels rather than else where in the wild. (Can slugs tell the difference between sliding on wheels and along logs…???)

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