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Hamsters sense their destiny

THEY MAY look cute and a bit dim but hamsters have an acute sense of where they are in life and where they want to go.

A scientific investigation of how golden hamsters remember where they have come from has revealed that they use a system of dead reckoning similar to the way mariners used to sail in unchartered seas.

An experiment where hamsters were trained to find a source of food in the pitch-dark has shown that they have an innate sense of direction which gives them a good idea of where they are in relation to where they want to be.

Ariane Etienne, professor of ethology at the University of Geneva, said in the journal Nature that the rodents can find their way around in the complete absence of landmarks by computing their position using internal cues, such as how fast they are travelling and for how long. "Experiments showed their navigation skills are more sophisticated than we supposed. Not only can they identify their point of departure, they can use their internal navigation to go directly to food."

Like humans, some hamsters are better than others at dead reckoning.