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 BIG AS BURRITOS What the Rise of the Chipotle Rat Tells Us

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Join date : 2013-12-25

PostSubject: BIG AS BURRITOS What the Rise of the Chipotle Rat Tells Us   Thu Apr 26, 2018 8:17 am

Earlier this week, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle ran a story with the headline “Rats the Size of Burritos Feast on Chipotle’s Trash in Brooklyn Heights.”

The story detailed how the Brooklyn Heights Association, a group of residents, was pointing fingers at Chipotle’s piles of garbage that the rats seemed to veer toward for their diets. Chipotle, in turn, blamed the rats on the construction of a nearby residential and office building. When the reporter asked a construction site worker how big the rats were, he spread his hands to the width of a house cat.

Which made us wonder: Is there a slow uprising of Chipotle-fed, cat-sized rats that are about to take over the nooks and crannies of cities?

Not so fast, said Matthew Combs, a Ph.D. candidate at Fordham University in the Department of Biological Sciences. “I see stories like this a lot, and often the comparison is to cats,” he said.

Combs has reason to be suspicious: His research is on urban rat populations, specifically on how variations in the urban environment (different architecture, how we organize ourselves in the city, and more) influences the ecology and evolution of rats.

In November, he published a paper in the journal Molecular Ecology that showed how rats genomically varied on the island of Manhattan based on diets and the island’s unique environments. A Midtown Manhattan rat’s more fatty diet and ability to skirt crowds of tourists were different from those of a rat in more peaceful Central Park.

But back to these Chipotle-loving rats. “I think the size of rats is often overestimated and exaggerated,” Combs said.

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