It’s hard to believe, but you and mice have a common dad. Long ago on the evolutionary chain, mice and humans were a single species. And, as it turns out, that’s when the killer instinct to eat meat began to develop in our brains, about 100 million years ago.
Our friends over at Science Daily report on a group of Scientists led by Ivan de Araujo who, having not much else to do at the time, decided to try and shoot laser beams into the brains of unsuspecting mice to see what the hell would happen. As Science Daily reports, “The study grew out of de Araujo’s efforts to understand the neural mechanisms.” De Araujo explains, “[The mice] have nothing else to do other than eat the pellets we throw in the cage. I began to wonder how natural and relevant this behavior is.” We wondered too how natural it is to breed lab mice unnaturally, confine them to unnatural cages, feed them unnaturally by throwing unnatural pellets at them a few times a day, and prevent them from living in any way as they would naturally in nature. It did start to seem so unnatural. So, the only natural solution was to shoot laser beams at their brain neurons. That way, we can come up with a natural explanation to their behavior which we can then extrapolate to our own miserable human behavior.
The study’s results are fascinating. The main one being, of course, if you have a jaw and a spine, you are going to win at Evolution: “Superior predatory skills led to the evolutionary triumph of jawed vertebrates.” Bingo. Science crushes again. If you like hamburgers, thank Evolution.
As it turns out, when the laser beams stimulated the mice brains, these seemingly innocent creatures began to turn on crickets or any other object placed in the cage with them. Whereas before it appeared that the mice and crickets were best friends, after you annihilate their brain cells, they become mortal enemies. “The mice take on qualities of “walkers” from The Walking Dead,” explains de Araujo, “pursuing and biting almost anything in their path, including bottle caps and wood sticks.” When we asked de Araujo if the mice are actually feverishly trying to stop their brains from being burned up by laser beams, he asked if we were Scientists and where we got our degree from. We obviously had to back off.
The Scientists also sliced up neurons in the mice brains that they thought controlled the instinct to pursue prey, and then sliced up neurons that they thought controlled the mouse’s jaw and biting. Amazingly, once these parts of the mice’s brain were destroyed and maimed by laser beams, the mice were unable to hunt, bite or kill. “The biting force of the jaw was decreased by 50 percent,” says de Araujo, “They fail to deliver the killing bite.” We tried to jump in here and say something like, “Ah! So, the brain helps the animal control its physical body!” But, the Scientists beat us to the true conclusion:
“The emergence of articulated jaws was a major event in vertebrate evolution. The reconfiguration of the vertebrate head promoted the transition from filter feeding to active predation, eventually placing jawed predators at the top of the food chain.”