Rats do not eat alone in public: Food-deprived rats socialize rather than competing for baits

Omri Weiss, Alex Dorfman, Tamar Ram, Pazit Zadicario, David Eilam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Limited resources result in competition among social animals. Nevertheless, social animals also have innate preferences for cooperative behavior. In the present study, 12 dyads of food-deprived rats were tested in four successive trials, and then re-tested as eight triads of food-deprived rats that were unfamiliar to each other. We found that the food-deprived dyads or triads of rats did not compete for the food available to them at regular spatially-marked locations that they had previously learnt. Rather, these rats traveled together to collect the baits. One rat, or two rats in some triads, lead (ran ahead) to collect most of the baits, but "leaders" differed across trials so that, on average, each rat ultimately collected similar amounts of baits. Regardless of which rat collected the baits, the rats traveled together with no substantial difference among them in terms of their total activity. We suggest that rats, which are a social species that has been found to display reciprocity, have evolved to travel and forage together and to share limited resources. Consequently, they displayed a sort of 'peace economy' that on average resulted in equal access to the baits across trials. For social animals, this type of dynamics is more relaxed, tolerant, and effective in the management of conflicts. Rather than competing for the limited available food, the food-deprived rats socialized and coexisted peacefully.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0173302
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'Rats do not eat alone in public: Food-deprived rats socialize rather than competing for baits'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this