FlipFact of the Day: Anyone who has ever had to deal with a rat problem in their home can attest to these rodents’ tendency to squeeze into the tiniest gaps. They also have an annoying knack for turning up in places where they absolutely shouldn’t be, which makes us wonder how they even got there in the first place. For some, the only reasonable explanation is that these persistent pests have special skeletons that come apart when they find themselves in (literally) tight spots. While this particular claim is nothing but a myth, science does support the idea that rats are pretty much built for home invasions.
Like humans, rats possess skeletons that aren’t soft or collapsible: they’re made up of the usual bones, joints, and cartilage. The reason why they can wriggle their way through cracks and crevices with ease? Aside from being extremely flexible, rats have a long and cylindrical body, narrow shoulders, and a pointed head. Their skeletons have also evolved to be the ideal shape and size for tight squeezes; unsurprising, since rats spend their entire two- to three-year lifespans digging tunnels and running around in narrow spaces.
Additionally, rats don’t just blindly charge into holes and hope for the best. They use their whiskers and the long hairs on their head to figure out whether or not they can fit through a specific hole. This allows them to make the decision to either go for it or find a different hole in a matter of milliseconds.
Rats aren’t always successful at this, though. Overweight rats do tend to make errors in judgment, leading to them getting stuck. Now, the mental image of a rotund rodent firmly plugged through an unseen hole in your wall may seem hilarious (with a shade of karmic justice), but it’s only funny until the rat dies and you end up why there’s a mysterious, foul odor in your room. So do yourself a favor by sealing up the holes in your home, storing your food properly, keeping your house clean, and investing in some decent traps.
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Author: Mikael Angelo Francisco
Bitten by the science writing bug, Mikael has years of writing and editorial experience under his belt. As the editor-in-chief of FlipScience, Mikael has sworn to help make science more fun and interesting for geeky readers and casual audiences alike.