Sneaky Little Bastards!2 January, 2009
A few weeks ago, in response to a post I did about the importance of sex in education, Sarge (and happy slightly belated birthday) put this in the comments:
One has watched certain things on farms and in nature.
I understand that there are certain salmon which don’t mature like others of their breeds and do not go to sea and return like others of their kind. They live in the natal waters and look like the pre-adult stage, but are mature sexually. When the “big boys” who have made it back fight it out and breed, these often sneak into the redd and contribute their own genetic material to the eggs. And they live a long time.
We had goats and sheep where I trained horses, and I saw somewhat the same thing. The rams and billys would be figting and one of the smaller, scruffier examples would sneak in and do the deed while the big ones were fighting or too tired to do something about it.
Well, Sarge, your perspicacity knows no bounds. Turns out that among semi-wild ungulates, the same thing happens (from Pure Pedantry):
During bison mating season, the quietest bulls score the most mates and sire the most offspring while studs with the loudest bellows see the least action, according to a surprising new study by researchers at University of California, Davis, and Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. The researchers also found that the volume of a bull’s bellow was not related to its weight or age.
“We were expecting to find that the bigger, stronger guys — the high-quality males — would have the loudest bellows, because they can handle the costs of it,” said Megan Wyman, a graduate student in geography at UC Davis and the lead author of the study. “But instead, we found the opposite. My collaborator in San Diego wanted me to call the paper ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick.'”
The study is the first to examine how the amplitude, or loudness, of a mammal’s vocalizations correlate with reproductive success. It was published in the November issue of the journal Animal Behaviour.
I’ve always said that it is the small sneaky little bastards for which you have to watch out.
Now, of course, I have to wonder this from an evolutionary point of view.
Bison are big animals. They are also loud. Size helps them survive — moving snow for winter forage requires incredible neck muscles, and it helps if the rest of the body is big enough to support the neck muscles. Not to mention the usefulness of size when dealing with apex predators such as wolves and pumas. Loudness would (presumably) aid in warnings regarding predators. I would also help keep the herd together. So how does the herd stay large if it is the sneaky little bastards (the quiet ones) spreading their genes and not the big, loud, obnoxious athlete types?
If it had worked that way in high school, the D&D nerds, band geeks and chorus losers (and I was all three (okay, I was a six-foot-tall nerd/geek/loser) would have been getting the action in high school. Instead, it was the muscle-minded athletes with the muscles, the big shoulders, no neck . . . .
It would appear, though, (at least through personal experience) that the quiet brainy guys do have more success in college than in high school. I met (((Wife))), proposed, and ended up in a wonderful marriage. So I am happy that the bison breeding pattern doesn’t show up until college among homo sapiens.
(Update added to the 11th paragraph after I had a chance to think about the article overnight.)