Monday, March 31, 2008

Good News for Mrs. Frisby

Japanese scientists have taught degus - rat-like rodents - to use a rake to obtain food.


Technovelgy points out the similarity of the tool-using degus to the intelligent rodent-like creatures in H. Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy, and the Watchmakers in The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

The first fictional reference that sprang to my mind was Robert O'Brien's Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, one of my childhood favorites. In that story, rats escape from the National Institute of Mental Health, where they were part of an intelligence-enhancing experiment. They end up on a farm where the mouse Mrs. Frisby lives. The rats use their superior intelligence and ability to use tools - not just raking, but building motors and the like - to help move Mrs. Frisby and her sick son to a new home before their old one is destroyed. The NIMH rats are both smart and dexterous. I wonder if the degus can top that?



My previous post on the biology in Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.

Download Little Fuzzy for free from Project Gutenberg.

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