The social life of Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus).
ABSTRACT: The Norway rat has important impacts on our life. They are amongst the most used research subjects, resulting in ground-breaking advances. At the same time, wild rats live in close association with us, leading to various adverse interactions. In face of this relevance, it is surprising how little is known about their natural behaviour. While recent laboratory studies revealed their complex social skills, little is known about their social behaviour in the wild. An integration of these different scientific approaches is crucial to understand their social life, which will enable us to design more valid research paradigms, develop more effective management strategies, and to provide better welfare standards. Hence, I first summarise the literature on their natural social behaviour. Second, I provide an overview of recent developments concerning their social cognition. Third, I illustrate why an integration of these areas would be beneficial to optimise our interactions with them.
Project description:Natural infection with larval Echinococcus multilocularis was recognized in one of eight Norway rats, Rattus norvegicus, caught indoors in 2009 in Ebetsu, Hokkaido, northern Japan. Cystic lesions were found in the right median and lateral lobes of the liver, with numerous alveolar cysts in the periphery of the lesions. Protoscolices were formed within large cysts. The laminated layers of the cysts were positive for PAS staining. Nested PCR using the primers specific for Taenia mitochondrial 12S rDNA yielded a 250-bp product, and the sequence of the PCR product matched that of E. multilocularis isolates from Hokkaido and Germany. This is the third natural alveolar hydatidosis in R. norvegicus in Japan.
Project description:Food neophobia is a reaction to novel food observed in many animal species, particularly omnivores, including Rattus norvegicus. A neophobic reaction is typically characterised by avoidance of novel food and the necessity to assess both its potential value and toxicity by the animal. It has been hypothesised that this reaction is not observed in rats inhabiting a changeable environment with a high level of variability with regard to food and food sources. This study was conducted in such changeable conditions and it aims to demonstrate the behaviour of wild rats R. norvegicus in their natural habitat. The rats were studied in a farm setting, and the experimental arena was demarcated by a specially constructed pen which was freely accessible to the rats. At regular intervals, the rats were given new flavour- and smell-altered foods, while their behaviour was video-recorded. The results obtained in the study seem to confirm the hypothesis that rats inhabiting a highly changeable environment do not exhibit food neophobia. The observed reaction to novel food may be connected with a reaction to a novel object to a larger extent than to food neophobia. The value of the results obtained lies primarily in the fact that the study was conducted in the animals' natural habitat, and that it investigated their spontaneous behaviours.
Project description:Leptospira interrogans is a bacterial zoonosis with a worldwide distribution for which rats (Rattus spp.) are the primary reservoir in urban settings. In order to assess, monitor, and mitigate the risk to humans, it is important to understand the ecology of this pathogen in rats. The objective of this study was to characterize the ecology of L. interrogans in Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) in an impoverished inner-city neighborhood of Vancouver, Canada.Trapping was performed in 43 city blocks, and one location within the adjacent port, over a 12 month period. Kidney samples were tested for the presence of L. interrogans using PCR and sequencing. A multivariable model was built to predict L. interrogans infection status in individual rats using season and morphometric data (e.g., weight, sex, maturity, condition, etc.) as independent variables. Spatial analysis was undertaken to identify clusters of high and low L. interrogans prevalence. The prevalence of L. interrogans varied remarkably among blocks (0-66.7%), and spatial clusters of both high and low L. interrogans prevalence were identified. In the final cluster-controlled model, characteristics associated with L. interrogans-infection in rats included weight (OR = 1.14, 95% CI = 1.07-1.20), increased internal fat (OR = 2.12, 95% CI = 1.06-4.25), and number of bite wounds (OR = 1.20, 95% CI?=?0.96-1.49).Because L. interrogans prevalence varied with weight, body fat, and bite wounds, this study suggests that social structure and interactions among rats may influence transmission. The prevalence and distribution of L. interrogans in rats was also highly variable even over a short geographic distance. These factors should be considered in future risk management efforts.
Project description:Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is an important cause of multi-drug-resistant infections in people, particularly indigent populations. MRSA can be transmitted between people and domestic animals, but the potential for transmission between people and commensal pests, particularly rodents, had not been investigated. The objective of this study was to identify the presence and characterize the ecology of MRSA in rats (Rattus spp.) from in an impoverished, inner-city neighborhood. Oropharyngeal swabs were collected from rats trapped in 33 city blocks and one location within the adjacent port. Bacterial culture was performed and MRSA isolates were characterized using a variety of methods, including whole-genome sequencing (WGS). The ecology of MRSA in rats was described using phylogenetic analysis, geospatial analysis, and generalized linear mixed models. MRSA was identified 22 of 637 (3.5%) rats tested, although prevalence varied from 0 - 50% among blocks. Isolates belonged to 4 clusters according to WGS, with the largest cluster (n?=?10) containing isolates that were genetically indistinguishable from community-acquired USA300 MRSA strains isolated from people within the study area. MRSA strains demonstrated both geographic clustering and dispersion. The odds of an individual rat carrying MRSA increased with increased body fat (OR?=?2.53, 95% CI?=?1.33-4.82), and in the winter (OR?=?5.29, 95% CI?=?1.04-26.85) and spring (OR?=?5.50, 95% CI?=?1.10-27.58) compared to the fall. The results show that urban rats carried the same MRSA lineages occurring in local human and/or animal populations, supporting recent transmission from external sources. MRSA carriage was influenced by season, most likely as a result of temporal variation in rat behavior and rat-human interactions.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Hepatitis E virus (HEV) transmitted via the oral route through the consumption of contaminated water or uncooked or undercooked contaminated meat has been implicated in major outbreaks. Rats may play a critical role in HEV outbreaks, considering their negative effects on environmental hygiene and food sanitation. Although the serological evidence of HEV infection in wild rodents has been reported worldwide, the infectivity and propagation of HEV in wild rats remain unknown. To investigate if rats are a possible carrier of HEV, we studied wild Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) that were caught near a pig farm, where HEV was prevalent among the pigs. METHODS: We examined 56 Norway rats for HEV. RNA from internal organs was examined for RT-PCR and positive samples were sequenced. Positive tissue samples were incubated with A549 cell line to isolate HEV. Anti-HEV antibodies were detected by ELISA. RESULTS: Sixteen rats were seropositive, and the HEV RNA was detected in 10 of the 56 rats. Sequencing of the partial ORF1 gene from 7 samples resulted in partially sequenced HEV, belonging to genotype 3, which was genetically identical to the HEV prevalent in the swine from the source farm. The infectious HEVs were isolated from the Norway rats by using the human A549 cell line. CONCLUSIONS: There was a relatively high prevalence (17.9%) of the HEV genome in wild Norway rats. The virus was mainly detected in the liver and spleen. The results indicate that these animals might be possible carrier of swine HEV in endemic regions. The HEV contamination risk due to rats needs to be examined in human habitats.
Project description:Tool-use behaviour has been observed in nonhuman animals in the wild and in experimental settings. In the present study, we investigated whether rats (Rattus norvegicus) could manipulate a tool according to the position of food to obtain the food in an experimental setting. Eight rats were trained to use a rake-shaped tool to obtain food beyond their reach using a step-by-step protocol in the initial training period. Following training, the rake was placed at the centre of the experimental apparatus, and food was placed on either the left or right side of the rake. Rats learned to manipulate the rake to obtain food in situations in which they could not obtain the food just by pulling the rake perpendicularly to themselves. Our findings thus indicate that the rat is a potential animal model to investigate the behavioural and neural mechanisms of tool-use behaviour.
Project description:Major urinary proteins (MUP) are the major component of the urinary protein fraction in house mice (Mus spp.) and rats (Rattus spp.). The structure, polymorphism and functions of these lipocalins have been well described in the western European house mouse (Mus musculus domesticus), clarifying their role in semiochemical communication. The complexity of these roles in the mouse raises the question of similar functions in other rodents, including the Norway rat, Rattus norvegicus. Norway rats express MUPs in urine but information about specific MUP isoform sequences and functions is limited. In this study, we present a detailed molecular characterization of the MUP proteoforms expressed in the urine of two laboratory strains, Wistar Han and Brown Norway, and wild caught animals, using a combination of manual gene annotation, intact protein mass spectrometry and bottom-up mass spectrometry-based proteomic approaches. Cluster analysis shows the existence of only 10 predicted mup genes. Further, detailed sequencing of the urinary MUP isoforms reveals a less complex pattern of primary sequence polymorphism in the rat than the mouse. However, unlike the mouse, rat MUPs exhibit added complexity in the form of post-translational modifications, including the phosphorylation of Ser4 in some isoforms, and exoproteolytic trimming of specific isoforms. Our results raise the possibility that urinary MUPs may have different roles in rat chemical communication than those they play in the house mouse. Shotgun proteomics data are available via ProteomExchange with identifier PXD013986.
Project description:The Norway rat, Rattus norvegicus, is one of the most important pest species globally and the main reservoir of leptospires causing human leptospirosis in the urban slums of tropical regions. Rodent control is a frequent strategy in those settings to prevent the disease but rapid growth from residual populations and immigration limit the long-term effectiveness of interventions. To characterize the breeding ecology of R. norvegicus and provide needed information for the level of genetic mixing, which can help identify inter-connected eradication units, we estimated the occurrence of multiple paternity, distances between mothers and sires, and inbreeding in rats from urban slum habitat in Salvador, Brazil. We genotyped 9 pregnant females, their 66 offspring, and 371 males at 16 microsatellite loci. Multiple paternity was observed in 22% (2/9) of the study litters. Of the 12 sires that contributed to the 9 litters, we identified 5 (42%) of those sires among our genotyped males. Related males were captured in close proximity to pregnant females (the mean inter-parent trapping distance per litter was 70 m, ±58 m SD). Levels of relatedness between mother-sire pairs were higher than expected and significantly higher than relatedness between all females and non-sire males. Our findings indicate multiple paternity is common, inbreeding is apparent, and that mother-sire dyads occur in close proximity within the study area. This information is relevant to improve the spatial definition of the eradication units that may enhance the effectiveness of rodent management programs aimed at preventing human leptospirosis. High levels of inbreeding may also be a sign that eradication efforts are successful.
Project description:Infectious diseases frequently have multiple potential routes of intraspecific transmission of pathogens within wildlife and other populations. For pathogens causing zoonotic diseases, knowing whether these transmission routes occur in the wild and their relative importance, is critical for understanding maintenance, improving control measures and ultimately preventing human disease. The Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) is the primary reservoir of leptospirosis in the urban slums of Salvador, Brazil. There is biological evidence for potentially three different transmission routes of leptospire infection occurring in the rodent population. Using newly obtained prevalence data from rodents trapped at an urban slum field site, we present changes in cumulative risk of infection in relation to age-dependent transmission routes to infer which intra-specific transmission routes occur in the wild. We found that a significant proportion of animals leave the nest with infection and that the risk of infection increases throughout the lifetime of Norway rats. We did not observe a significant effect of sexual maturity on the risk of infection. In conclusion, our results suggest that vertical and environmental transmission of leptospirosis both occur in wild populations of Norway rats.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Murine kobuviruses (MuKV) are newly recognized picornaviruses first detected in murine rodents in the USA in 2011. Little information on MuKV epidemiology in murine rodents is available. Therefore, we conducted a survey of the prevalence and genomic characteristics of rat kobuvirus in Guangdong, China. RESULTS:Fecal samples from 223 rats (Rattus norvegicus) were collected from Guangdong and kobuviruses were detected in 12.6% (28) of samples. Phylogenetic analysis based on partial 3D and complete VP1 sequence regions showed that rat kobuvirus obtained in this study were genetically closely related to those of rat/mouse kobuvirus reported in other geographical areas. Two near full-length rat kobuvirus genomes (MM33, GZ85) were acquired and phylogenetic analysis of these revealed that they shared very high nucleotide/amino acids identity with one another (95.4%/99.4%) and a sewage-derived sequence (86.9%/93.5% and 87.5%/93.7%, respectively). Comparison with original Aichivirus A strains, such human kobuvirus, revealed amino acid identity values of approximately 80%. CONCLUSION:Our findings indicate that rat kobuvirus have distinctive genetic characteristics from other Aichivirus A viruses. Additionally, rat kobuvirus may spread via sewage.