Jailbreak Rat: Selfless Rodents Spring Their Pals and Share Their Sweets

A new study suggests that rodents are far more altruistic than previously thought


The English language is not especially kind to rats. We say we “smell a rat” when something doesn’t feel right, refer to stressful competition as the “rat race,” and scorn traitors who “rat on” friends. But rats don’t deserve their bad rap. According to a new study in the December 9 issue ofScience, rats are surprisingly selfless, consistently breaking friends out of cages—even if freeing their buddies means having to share coveted chocolate. It seems that empathy and self-sacrifice have a greater evolutionary legacy than anyone expected.