If one rat is drowning and will most likely die, then another will step in and save it. New research into rats lives shows that the rodents appear to have and feel empathy. Saving another person from a life or death situation is not something that everyone will do without thinking, some humans even will not take the risk – especially if they do not know the person. But it is not a unique feeling, and many of us will do it instinctively.
Many primates will also help each other out, and as they are our closest relatives well it is very likely our ape ancestors also helped each other out of dire scenarios. Another way to look at it is to believe that our willingness to save others is sort of an ancient trait passed down through the gene tree and that the modern human has inherited.
New researchers have looked into this trait and now believe it comes from a very long way. Rodents are distantly related to us but have been on the planet for much longer. As our common ancestor lived millions of years ago. And their experiments show that rats will help their friends from drowning.
If a rat was soaked in water and looking like he would drown, rats quickly figured out the experiment, that a level would automatically let them escape to safety when pushed. And the rats even helped their friends out when in the presence of treats such as chocolate, they would give up food to save the drowning rat.
This shows they were engaging in what is known as prosocial behavior, essentially, they feel empathy for their fellow rats. Saving the rat in trouble meant a lot to them, and it was valuable to save them. Also, experience played an influence, if the savior rat had already nearly drowned, he would help his friend out even faster.