Imagine if every time you were attracted to that delicious smell wafting from your neighborhood Cinnabon's open door, you found upon entering that it was actually a hardware store with no food in sight. It wouldn't be long before that smell no longer sucked you in.
That’s essentially what scientists tried in an attempt to solve an age-old problem in species conservation: How do you stop predators from attacking their prey?
In the new study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Australia exposed black rats to the smells of a bird’s nest — avian feces, feathers and the like — by placing scent-spiked fake nests throughout a field.
Normally, the smells would signal to the rats that food was at hand. But because there were no bird eggs in the nests, the rats soon learned to ignore the smell, treating it as just another bit of noise in their chaotic natural environment.