Plants and Animals

Animals can be giant jerks

October 22, 2013 | by Lisa Winter

Photo credit: Joe Robertson

Humanity has a tendency to romanticize the rest of the natural world. We humans aren't so great - we destroy natural resources, harm the environment, and all around act like jerks. But the rest of nature? Oh no. Other animals are noble and kind. We should learn from them. Right? Right?

Wrong. Animals can be GIANT JERKS. Even those traditionally seen as completely adorable. And here's just some of the messed up things that the jerkiest of them have been known to do.

Otters

Sea otters are awful. You've probably seen the image macros floating around Facebook, exclaiming over how they hold hands while they sleep to make sure they don't drift apart. Well, that true. But then, they also rape baby seals. As it turns out, sea otters are some of the biggest sickos of the animal kingdom. 

It takes a lot of resources to feed an otter - they need to eat approximately 25% of their body weight every single day. When food is in short supply things can get ugly. Some males will hold otter pups hostage until the mother pays a ransom of food to the male. 

But they don't just kidnap babies. Sea otters also rape baby seals to death. Male otters will find a juvenile harbor seal and mount it, as if he were mating with a female otter. Unfortunately, part of the mating process involves holding the female’s head under water which ultimately kills the seal pups (and over 10% of female otters). For over an hour and a half, the male otter will hold the seal pup in this position, raping it until it is dead. Sometimes when the seal pup dies, it is just let go and the otter will begin to groom itself. Some otters, however, will hang on to the dead pup and continue to rape its dead and decaying corpse for up to a week later. 

Sea otters aren't even the scariest otters, believe it or not. In South America 6-foot long river otters still exist. And they hunt in packs.

Bottlenose dolphins

Not DOLPHINS. Dolphins are adorable, right? The friendliest of all sea animals. Wrong. Dolphins are total jerks. Sure, they are incredibly intelligent, always look like they’re smiling, and rescue the occasional stranded swimmer -  but that doesn’t excuse the fact that they kill for fun and like otters, enjoy a spot of rape from time to time.

A couple years ago a porpoise washed up on the shore in California that was badly beaten and bruised, with several broken bones. Several more similar sightings were made over the next two years and the injuries sustained by the porpoises was indicative of an attack by bottlenose dolphins. Two dolphins were witnessed ganging up on a porpoise. It was sandwiched between them and unable to escape as they threw it in the air and pummeled it repeatedly. The motivation behind the porpicide is unknown. Dolphins and porpoises do not compete for food or territory, and porpoises do not pose a threat to dolphins. It really appears that the dolphins do it for fun.

While it isn’t a widely held view, some believe that dolphins kill porpoises to practice killing baby dolphins. Seriously. Dolphins are yet another animal that routinely practices infanticide as a means of driving a female back into estrus. This is fairly common in the animal kingdom by the way - it's been spotted in lions, meerkats, langurs  and many more.

And then there's the rape. Sexual coercion isn't exactly unusual in the animal kingdom, but dolphins take it to the extreme. Dolphin males will form gangs, kidnap a female and then take turns raping her. What happens if there are no females around? Well, they don't turn to seals like the otters do ... they just rape a male instead.

Adélie penguins

"Noooo" I hear you say. Not the penguins! Penguins are adorable! They look like little people in suits, and they waddle and have several children's films made about how sweet they are!

Sorry. Penguins are assholes.

Naturalist George Levick ventured to the South Pole with the 1910-1913 Scott Antarctic Expedition. His report on the sexual behaviors of these penguins was deemed too extreme for publication and was hidden for one hundred years. According to Douglas Russel who analyzed his work in 2012, "The pamphlet, declined for publication with the official Scott expedition reports, commented on the frequency of sexual activity, auto-erotic behavior, and seemingly aberrant behavior of young unpaired males and females, including necrophilia, sexual coercian, sexual and physical abuse of chicks and homosexual behavior." You can read the entire pamphlet here.

Margays

Margays, which are sometimes known as tree ocelots, are nocturnal cats from southern Mexico down to South America. 

Their method is particularly horrible because of how it exploits the good nature of the prey. It has been discovered in recent years that margays hunt by mimicking the sound of a baby monkey in distress. Seriously. Although scientists have described the imitation as not being very good, it seems to be fairly effective.

The margay hides and then makes a screeching sound that sounds like a baby tamarin that has been injured. An adult tamarin, desperately seeking to rescue the youngster, is then eaten by the margay. No good deed goes unpunished, especially out in the wild. But hey, at least it's not more rape - right?

Chimps

Chimpanzees are our closest cousins, so maybe it isn’t too much of a surprise that they would be included in this list. That said, chimps regularly engage in behavior that just doesn’t fly in human societies. Infanticide certainly isn’t uncommon and has already been mentioned a time or two in this list. Male chimps who wish to drive a female into estrus don’t just kill her baby, but will dismember it and eat it right in front of her. What’s worse is that female chimps have been observed doing the exact same thing to other females, though the motives for this are not as well understood. 

 

 

 

Editor's note: It has been pointed out to me that this article bears a resemblance to one published by Brian Switek in Slate on Oct 28th. This article was written and uploaded to our website on October 22nd, before being published by me (along with the rest of the website) on the 30th Oct. It is an extension of an earlier post written and sent viral by myself in April. This was archived with a date stamp here. As there is no conceivable way Lisa could have read Brian's article before writing her own, I will not be taking action at this time. You can read Brian's excellent article, which discusses many of these themes in more detail here.

- Elise Andrew

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