Social identification of toxic diets by Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus).
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In the present experiment, a naive rat (an observer) interacted with two conspecifics (demonstrators) that had recently eaten a diet unfamiliar to the observer, ate two unfamiliar foods in succession, one of which was the food its demonstrators had eaten, suffered toxicosis, and finally, was offered a simultaneous choice between the two diets it had eaten prior to toxicosis induction. During the choice test, observers exhibited an aversion to that diet their respective demonstrators had not eaten. This result indicates that exposure of a rat to conspecifics that have eaten a diet can act, as does actual ingestion of a diet, to reduce that diet's subsequent associability with toxicosis. I discuss this finding as suggesting that interaction with conspecifics may provide an alternative to individual trial and error learning in identification of toxic foods by rats that ingest a number of novel foods in succession before becoming ill.
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