Mice in Spaaace
April 16, 2019 8:10 AM   Subscribe

In zero G, it helps to have a tail – NASA scientists have now published the first detailed study of how mice behave in the NASA Rodent Hardware System, which has housed almost a dozen experiments on the International Space Station since 2014. They found that the rodents engaged in all the typical mouse behaviors, even in the “weightlessness” of the microgravity environment [video at end of article].
posted by cenoxo (16 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Came for floaty mice pix--was not disappointed. Plus, bonus mice zoomies!
posted by agatha_magatha at 8:25 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


I look forward to "NASA Engineers Announce New Spacefursuit Design" within a year or so.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:50 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


This was really neat, I do wish they had an enclosure with a bit more room. I want to see how they fare with a bit of open space, right now they were basically always close to contact with a surface. I want to see one swim through some empty space!
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:52 AM on April 16


I almost posted this. Because: Turbo space mice. It was really fascinating to see them adapt to microgravity, unload their limbs and start coasting and place-holding just like astronauts.

Also, animals are way smarter than we think they are. Those mice adapted way faster than a human would if you abducted them, put them in a windowless box and took them to orbit without explaining what was going on.
posted by loquacious at 8:56 AM on April 16


They're running laps in a complete wheel. I wonder if they're going fast enough to experience centrifugal force?
posted by Mogur at 9:21 AM on April 16


NASA astronaut zoomies around the storage lockers (diagram) in Skylab, launched May 14, 1973. Take that, ISS!
posted by cenoxo at 9:22 AM on April 16


Heh, well timed, as I just came back from returning a mouse to the great outdoors. It had also adapted to an unnatural habitat after my cat caught it and brought it indoors and released it.
posted by tavella at 9:37 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


In space, no one can hear you squeak.

Tagline for Attack of the Extraterrestrial Space Cats.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:55 AM on April 16 [3 favorites]


Also, animals are way smarter than we think they are. Those mice adapted way faster than a human would if you abducted them, put them in a windowless box and took them to orbit without explaining what was going on.
There's only one way to find out.
posted by Horkus at 9:57 AM on April 16 [4 favorites]


They could always try it with cats. Oh, wait, someone has.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:01 AM on April 16


after my cat caught it and brought it indoors and released it

A friend's cat keeps doing that. Lola, you are so fired.
posted by sjswitzer at 12:06 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


From the article: "The younger group also began to show a new behavior that the scientists describe as “race-tracking” – running laps around the cage. This even evolved into a group activity."

Yeah, that sounds nice. Maybe. But I have seen animals (otters, polar bears, to name a few) in small confinement in zoos that perform neurotic repetitive motions (zoochosis) endlessly as a response to confinement. I'm not sure this isn't that. :(

ETA: Article goes on to say, "Scientists don’t yet know the reasons for this group circling behavior. It could be that the physical exercise itself was rewarding for the mice, that the behavior was a stress response, or that the motion provided stimulation to the body’s balance system, which is mostly absent in microgravity. The researchers think stress is less likely to be the cause – the mice behaved normally otherwise and were in excellent health – but more research is needed to know for sure."
posted by sjswitzer at 12:25 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


I am curious how the mice adapt to a larger space with larger voids to cross. It certainly looks like they'll take to it well.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:46 PM on April 16


We know we're in trouble when they begin using their tails as propellers -
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:09 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]




Yeah, sjswitzer, that seems like typical stereotypical (heh) behavior. The cage doesn't seem remotely large enough or enriching enough for them.
posted by fiercecupcake at 3:02 PM on April 16


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