It’s not by accident that there are so many rats all over the world. Despite our best efforts at eradicating them, rats keep outwitting us. But why? That’s the subject of an episode from the brand-new podcast Part-Time Genius, hosted by Will Pearson and Mangesh (Mango) Hattikudur. In their episode “Why have rats outsmarted us for so long?”, the two get to know the Norway rat, also known less flatteringly, as the common brown rat or sewer rat.
While brown rats have been around forever, they weren’t always found everywhere on Earth. They first called Southeast Asia home, then migrated to China and Russia. Eventually they began hopping aboard ships, which ferried them to Europe, and then North America in the 1700s.
Scientists in the U.S. only began studying rats around World War II, when authorities feared the Nazis might use the pests to spread disease throughout Europe. What they’ve discovered during the last few decades is that rats are perfectly engineered to outlast humans.
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