Turns out, they’re further hastening the demise of the human race by teaching rodents to handle pointy objects (story note — degus are rodents):
Specifically, degus have been trained to reach through a fence, grab hold of a tiny rake and pull their favorite food, half a peeled sunflower seed, close enough to reach with their mouths. After two months of practice, researchers say, the degus can move the rake as smoothly and efficiently as croupiers in any Las Vegas casino.
Putting aside what that last sentence says about Vegas-trained croupiers, what the eff are these scientists thinking? It is a well-documented fact that some of history’s most fearsome warriors started with rake training.
The researchers even admit that rodents possess the hand-eye coordination necessary to revolt against their human overseers in a furious wave of scurrying claws and tiny yard tools:
While it has long been thought that tool use is a hallmark of higher intelligence, Dr. Iriki said, the brain structures that underlie such abilities may lie dormant in many animals with good hand-and-eye or paw-and-eye coordination. Training them to use tools in captivity provides insights into the plasticity of their brains, he said, and may shed light on how early humans evolved tool use in the first place.
Look, people. I’m a firm believer in evolution. I think it exists. But do we really need to be encouraging it? Outside of Kentucky?
What a Rodent Can Do With a Rake in Its Paw [New York Times]