[extropy-chat] Deception theory, lies and natural selection

spike spike66 at comcast.net
Tue Dec 26 18:22:17 UTC 2006

bounces at lists.extropy.org] On Behalf Of Robert Bradbury


1. Devious Butterflies, Full-Throated Frogs and Other Liars, C. Zimmer, 26
Dec 2006

Wow Robert, this one really has me thinking.  A lot of stuff in this

" If you happen across a pond full of croaking green frogs, listen
carefully. Some of them may be lying.

A croak is how male green frogs tell other frogs how big they are. The
bigger the male, the deeper the croak. The sound of a big male is enough to
scare off other males from challenging him for his territory.

While most croaks are honest, some are not. Some small males lower their
voices to make themselves sound bigger. Their big-bodied croaks intimidate
frogs that would beat them in a fair fight."

OK, we know of plenty of examples of the size/toughness game.  Cats and dogs
raise the fur on their backs when they are about to fight, perhaps to look
bigger.  Male dogs mark their territory by urinating upon tree trunk.  The
biggest dog can urinate higher up the trunk.  

Humans have created a breed of dog that is long bodied and short-legged, the
dachshund.   This body style is optimized for entering badger-holes but is
disadvantageous for urinating high up a tree trunk to mark territory.  Some
clever dachshund figured out how to stand on his forelimbs with his aftlimbs
high upon the trunk, thereby to appear larger.  (Has anyone a site with a
picture of that?)  Many interesting questions are raised by this behavior:

1)  Can the dachshunds learn this behavior from each other, or is it
co-discovered by many?

2)  If a bigger but non-deceiving dachshund sees a smaller deceptive
dachshund doing the upside-down pissing trick, will his instinct still make
the big guy get scarce, or will he reason thru the scam and go mark that
tree as his own?

3)  If the bigger dachshund sees the little dachshund marking trees, would
he become skeptical and eventually not believe the high piss marks?

4)  If so, would the bigger dachshund eventually start to mistake genuine
big-dog territorial markings for small lying little dachshunds?  Would the
larger but skeptical dachshund eventually try to overmark the territory of a
big-ass doberman, who would respond by politely biting his damn head off and
urinating upon the corpse in his territory?

5)  Would then skepticism vs deception eventually reach an equilibrium in
the dachshund population?

Is this cool or what? 


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