Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Of men and mice

16th April 2007

Going through a book on ecology, I found something interesting that I’d like to share with you. I’m writing a succinct account of the actual text.

A lab experiment was designed by Calhoun et al (1962) to study the effect of overcrowding on population of rats. 32 rats (16males and 16 females) were kept in a specially designed enclosure (designed for 50 rats) keeping all conditions conducive. At the end of one year, the population reached and was maintained at 80 rats by removing newborns after being weaned.

There were some dominant males that maintained a harem of 5 females each who proved to be successful mothers. The newborns of other females had a survival rate of only 20%, because they lived in stuffy regions, failed to build proper nests and abandoned their young ones early. There was increased fighting amongst some males while others showed total inactivity, oblivious to the presence of other rats. Some rats showed homosexual and hypersexual behaviour and cannibalized the young ones. Abundant food was being provided to sustain all the 80 rats, still they developed ulcers and became immune compromised. Overcrowding completely broke down the rat’s normal social behavior.

Can we extrapolate these results to human society?
Perhaps we’d be tempted to say “yes” and not so without good reason. Industrialization is leading to the mad competitive “rat race” amongst humans; heart attacks and ulcers have become as abundant as the population of human beings. No matter how much we have, we always have less! On the flipside, unemployment may lead to overtly aggressive behavior or complete inactivity.

This however is just too simplistic a conjecture.
After all who can live in “frugality” when the other person has that little bit extra? After all most of us in today’s world strongly believe that a human is not complete without a car (the better one), cell phone (the better one), clothes (better ones), partner (the better one…the search never ends while people keep hopping from one to another…unsatisfied forever).

Let’s look inside ourselves and try to remove the “filth”…hey I’m trying…its working! All the best for your endeavors…because if we’re gonna have to live in this throng, let’s hope we get to bump into pleasant people.

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