Rats are loyal to their neighbourhoods

May 27th, 2009 - 4:12 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 27 (ANI): In what may have important implications to controlling diseases that spread from rats to humans, Johns Hopkins scientists have found that rodents spend the majority of their lives close to their homes.

The researchers have also observed that some rodents may, in the face of danger, travel as far as seven miles to repopulate abandoned areas.

Wild Norway rats-also called wharf rats, sewer rats or brown rats-can weigh nearly 2 pounds and transmit a variety of diseases to humans.

Even though expensive eradication efforts have been made in Baltimore, point out the researchers, the number of rats there has remained unchanged over the past 50 years.

With a view to finding out why such drives have failed to eradicate rats from Baltimore, the researchers trapped about 300 rats from 11 residential areas and conducted genetic studies to see how the rats were related.

They found that East Baltimore rats are separated from their unrelated West-side counterparts by a large waterway known as the Jones Falls. Within these hemispheres, rat families form smaller communities of about 11 city blocks.

Each community is further divided into neighborhoods that span little more than the length of an average alley. And to a city rat, this is home sweet home.

Based on their observations, the researchers have come to the conclusion that while rats rarely migrate, neighborhood eradication efforts may backfire by encouraging the rodents to repopulate other areas and further spread disease.

They believe that the best solution may be to tackle the problem on a much larger scale-perhaps by targeting entire families at once.

A research article on the study has been published in the journal Molecular Ecology. (ANI)

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