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.)



  1. I bet Bill Gates could get laid by just about any woman he wants right now…Just sayin’.

  2. Yeah, you’re probably right. But I bet in high school he was in the pre-Bison stage.

  3. Wow. This post took me back. I got my bachelor’s degree at UC Davis in Fisheries Biology, but one of the professors who left an indelible mark on me was Dale Lott, the bison professor. He was the sweetest professor I had – he was painfully shy and hated public speaking – but he acknowledged this immediately on the first day of class to get it out of the way, and memorized all our names as a way of dealing with it.

    The class was an animal behavior class, and one of the interesting tidbits I remember was that he had once had a homosexual bison in his herd.

    I was very upset when I heard he had died. One of my other favorite professors, Peter B. Moyle wrote part of that memorial I linked above.

    (Those precocious salmon are called “Jacks,” although they usually have spent a year (far fewer than the rest of the adults) at sea (uh, oh. This parentheses thing is catching)))(Oh, Walleye are sometimes called jacks, too. Not the same thing at all)

  4. Professor Lott didn’t say whether the gay bison was a big quiet guy, or a small noisy one, but I’d be willing to bet that he didn’t leave many offspring. The bison, not Professor Lott. I don’t know if Professor Lott had any offspring.

  5. Well we’d all be even worse off if only the brutes bred. Luckily for humanity some clever bastards snuck in and got some.

    Personally, I was on all sides. I was the tall, geek, AD&D playing, long hair rocker, partier, artist, semi-jock. No matter which circle I moved in, I always was a tad different, but not too much so, which created just enough air of mystery. That’s how I got some. 😉

  6. ()-

    So, are you saying you buffaloed your wife into marrying you?

  7. Laurie: But I thought that ‘gayness’ was unnatural. At least, that’s what the right-wing claims. How could a ‘natural’ bison be gay? Must be a librul bison.

    Philly: I hung on the outskirst of about five different groups and never fit in with any of them. Then again, I also consciously tried to be different — in the days of preppie, I was wearing torn blue jeans, tie-dye Grateful Dead shirt and flannel shirt. Got nun til I met (((Wife))).

    Ric: Well, she didn’t steer clear of me.

  8. Thank you, Miss Laurie. I’ve heard pike called Jacks, and in some places down south gar are called jacks as well.

    I had a lot of girls that were friends back when I was (enrolled) in school, but my only girlfriend was the one that eventually became my wife. And I lived in Virginia and she here in PA in this very house.

    The parents of most of the girls I knew were not comfortable with their daughters hanging around with someone like me. Poor student, non conformist, interested in things that the children of good burgher stock really shouldn’t dabble in, dressed in unconventional ways,etc.

    Funny thing happened the Thursday before christmas, though. I play third Thursday of the month at out local library for four hours and my wife usually spends that time at the library catching up on things. That day she had some running around to do and told me she’d get me about closing time. I sit up in the balcony, and as I know the music well, I people watch. Especially the cute girls, I admit it!
    During the third hour I saw a lady come in, she was wearing a hooded coat, and I assessed her with some interest. Short, compact, jiggly bits jiggled quite appealingly, what I could see from under the hood, a firm almost elfin jaw, a bit on the nosey side…pretty much just what I like! Thought to myself, if I wasn’t married that’s a gal I’d like to get acquainted with if she was free, too. Then she pulled her hood back … and it WAS my wife!

    She was my first date ever, and a blind date at that. I was fifteen when we met. She’s the reason I actually graduated from high school. And it looks like she was my ideal all along, hard wired, maybe?

  9. […] bookmarks tagged the offspring Sneaky Little Bastards! saved by 2 others     rooben952 bookmarked on 01/04/09 | […]

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