Study says ‘smell of hunger’ may prompt mice to share food with their peers

Scientists have observed that mice voluntarily share food with other hungry mice,media reported. Now a new study suggests that they do so not only on the behavior of another mouse, but also on its smell. Previous researchers have suggested that hungry mice seek help from their peers by making sounds and postures in order to get food aid. However, how do mice with food know that the requested mouse is really hungry, not just greedy? Wildlife biologist Dr Karin Schneeberger set out to look at whether there were more “honest clues.”

Study says 'smell of hunger' may prompt mice to share food with their peers

Her research was carried out with the help of researchers from the University of Bern in Switzerland and researchers at the University of Potsdam in Germany.

The scientists put hungry or full-food Norwegian mice in one room and then directed the air from its cage to the cage in another room. The other cage is split in two by a wire mesh barrier and contains two other Norwegian rats – each located on both sides of the barrier. One of the mice can approach the outside tray of food and, if needed, pull it within reach of its companion.

The researchers were able to observe that mice that were able to get food shared food more quickly when they appeared in cages with air flow than full mice.

By analyzing air samples around hungry and well-fed mice, the researchers found significant differences between the levels of seven different volatile organic compounds. These compounds may be released by recently digested foods, the metabolic processes associated with digestion, or may be used specifically as a olfactory cue for food-sharing behavior.

A paper on the study was recently published in the journal PLOS Biology.