Thursday, August 6, 2009
You Dirty Rat (Part 2)
The rat is a proven master at managing the hurdles that humans present it. Following on from my last farrago of nonsense (though admittedly chilling for those who fear the creatures) sticky paper was laid on the track the rats were taking from entry via the hole in the mosquito netting to various locations of food, placed there for their delight and hastened death. But it seems to be more like their delight and edification. After the first one left all its body hair on the said carpet of glue and retired to its lair, prematurely bald, subsequent familial rodents have somehow managed to remove the succulent opiates from the centre of the sticky pads without even getting a gummed up paw or whisker. How do they do it? Do they work in pairs like acrobats? (Actually they do – I saw a film sequence once of a rat on its back carrying an egg and others pulling it along like a trolley! Or was it ants I am thinking about…)
But, laying my erratic memory on one side, news of other creatures’ activities puts everything into context.
Rooks can, when first meeting the problem of a worm floating in a test tube, drop enough stones in the tube to raise the water level and, therefore, the worm to their beaks. Like Aesop I hear you cry. I reported magpies some time ago that were seemingly capable of recognising themselves in a mirror. And another account purported to show that wallabies in Tasmania raid the marijuana fields of a medical research centre (nice work if you can get it) gorge themselves, then retire to the nearest corn field and proceed to dance like dervishes, creating – you guessed it – corn circles!
I remember reading a theory once (called morphogenesis, I think), though those who read this column regularly will have a suitable wariness at any claim of mine to be factual. The theory was that if a creature learns something in one part of the world, his or her ilk in another gains something cognitive from it, So, if we take the rat learning a complex maze in the UK, it might take an hour. Once it learns it, it runs the maze very quickly, of course, But a rat in the Amazon, faced for the first time with the same maze will achieve a result which suggests learning from the first rat has been ‘transmitted’. We might posit Jungian pools of the unconscious here. We might consider that animals have telepathy. We might hypothesise that creatures of this world have forms of intelligence way beyond our capacity to comprehend.
But it is intriguing to project a scenario where any one of the aforementioned life forms uses ingenuity to bring a meal to its mouth, checks that it is properly groomed in a mirror and then heads for a rave in the nearest clump of illegally sown marijuana and finishes off in a perfect circle of flattened cereal crop, sleeping it off.
One thing is for sure, it will appear on YouTube and we will sit in ignorant wonder on our settees and imagine, erroneously, that it was staged with computer graphics.