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New Research from Trent University Offers Pest Management Insights for Surging Rat Populations Worldwide

Dr. Eric Guiry publishes research suggesting rats populations can be curtailed by reducing their access to protein-rich diets

New published research from Trent University is providing insights that could help address and manage the world’s growing rat population in urban environments, which is costing billions of dollars annually in the fight to avoid environmental destruction caused by the pesky rodents.

Dr. Eric Guiry, a Banting postdoctoral fellow in the Anthropology department at Trent University, suggests that one way to reduce habitat quality for rats is to make sure they don’t have access to a high-quality and protein-rich foods.

“Our research shows that part of the reason that rats are so successful at exploiting urban city environments is because they can access a steadier, higher-quality diet, including much more meat than their counterparts in rural areas,” says Dr. Guiry, who worked with Dr. Michael Buckley, of the University of Manchester, on the research that has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Rats are one of the most successful pests on the planet and populations are expected to continue growing significantly due to global warming and growth in urban areas, yet relatively little has been known about rat behaviour in urban places due to logistical and other challenges of studying them in cities.

Dr. Guiry says he was able to circumvent some of these challenges by using archaeological materials. This study uses chemical signatures from archaeological rat bones to reconstruct and compare the kinds of foods that were important to different rat communities in urban 19th century Toronto and its surrounding rural areas.

By exploring, for the first time, how rat diets vary across a variety of urban landscapes and over a 100-year period, this research could help biologists and pest-control experts to better understand the urban ecology of rodents and design better methods for pest control.

“Another very interesting finding to come out of this research is the strong link between rat diets and the number of people living in an urban centre,” he says. “This raises the exciting prospect of using chemical signatures from archaeological rodents from around the world for uncovering new information about the ebb and flow of human populations living in ancient cities.”

Read more about Prof. Guiry’s latest research.

Posted on October 19, 2018