Newsflash: A member of the "ratlife" gang, Dario Marianelli, who wrote the music for the film, has won an Oscar (Feb. 08) for his music score for the film "Atonement". Meanwhile, Dot, our own rat-star (who confesses to be more interested in ultrasounds) has condescended to an interview: see"An Audience with Dot", in section "Awards & Interview".
Languages: This home page is also available in: Dutch, Finnish, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. Translations of the film commentary are available in the section Languages which also contains translations currently in progress.

ABOUT THE FILM:

"A tale with more real-life dilemmas than a Shakespeare play and more group sex than a blue movie!" (A.P. 2002)

Shot as a wildlife documentary over several months, this 27 min film follows the lives of domestic rats after being released in a large outdoor enclosure where they have to compete, like their wild cousins, for food, shelter and mates. As we witness the emergence of a complex and structured society which soon thrives in this wild environment, the film demonstrates how studies ranging from physiology to psychology have uncovered a number of features which, despite generations of domestification, remain ready to be expressed when given the opportunity. We may have taken the rat out of the wild, but have we taken the wild out of the rat?

The film can be obtained as a DVD (see "Get the film").


WHY THIS FILM AND WEB SITE:

1) When keeping animals in captivity, it is important to know what they have evolved to do. Progress in animal welfare is, to a large extent, driven by a combination of awareness, willingness and facts. This film aims to be relevant to all three by reviewing the range of behaviours and needs which, despite generations of domestification, remain innate and ready to be expressed when given the opportunity.

2) It is also relevant for scientific reasons: even the most causal of scientists, exclusively interested in mechanisms, are in a sense studying the product of evolution. Indeed, millions of years of evolution have made the rat one of the most successful social omnivores on the planet. An admirable species (and also a very good pet) such is the range of its talents that a guide of what is important to a rat becomes a guided tour of the central issues in animal behaviour (including, to a certain extent, our own) and welfare. The topics covered in the film include the following:

1. Food selection
2. The benefits of living in groups
3. Learning
abilities
4. Dominance hierarchies
5. Anti-predation
6. Communication (olfactory and ultrasonic)
7. Habitat selection and orientation
8. Mating strategies and sexual selection
9. Neophobia
10. Birth & Infanticide

3) The material is also intended to constitute a resource that can be used for teaching and presentations. The sequences are available in digital format and the web site also contains over 40 freely downloadable slides and movie clips (some silent) that span all the major sections of the documentary. Those of us who teach behaviour have lamented on the lack of useful material to illustrate what we mean. This film and web site aim to redress this.

I hope that this endeavour will be of use, and welcome your comments and suggestions.
Let me know at enquiries@ratlife.org.

Manuel Berdoy
Oxford,
2003.