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Sunday, March 07, 2010

A little thought experiment

Say you had one duck egg and one chicken egg. You remove them both from their respective nests (do ducks even make nests??) and allow them to hatch and grow up together. They never see any animals other than the other; that is, the chicken never sees any animal other than the one duck, and vice versa. Will the chicken be "aware" that it is a chicken rather than a duck? If you insert the chicken into a duck family, will it try to fit in before they reject it (assuming they do)? Or if you introduce the chicken to a community of ducks and chickens, whom will the chicken choose to chill with? Will it identify with the ducks because it's used to them? Or does something inside it tell it that it's a chicken and allow it to recognize members of its own species? What if the chicken went to join the ducks while the duck went to join the chickens? WHAT THEN?

I feel like there must be some obvious answer I'm overlooking, like the time I asked my stepdad (NASA chemist) why we don't just put our trash and nuclear waste on rockets and shoot them into the sun*. Please help. If nobody answers to my satisfaction, I may be compelled to spend $600 registering my new pets with the authorities (so as not to violate my contract's pet clause) in order that I may attempt a non-vegan experiment.

*Shamefully, I was probably about 15 at the time and had been proudly nursing the idea for at least 5 years. Not my most brilliant moment, I admit. Slightly more brilliant, perhaps, than my plan to put little wind turbines on car roofs and grills and sideview mirrors to generate electricity. [I'm still convinced there may be a way to pull this off].


Bob Harwig said...

I will answer your last question first - there is no way to extract more energy (wind turbine or otherwise) out of a moving vehicle than what you put in. For the sake of all the brain energy you could put to good use else where, give up on that one.

I don't have a definitive answer about your chicken and duck situation. I would imagine that the family of ducks with an introduced chicken would recognize that the chicken is not one of their own. Further, they would likely continue to go around doing duck like things (swimming in ponds, migrating across countries, etc), which the chicken would be unable to do (or at least not very good at doing). Even though the chicken may start to identify as a duck, I believe that it's inherent chicken-ness would overwhelm any environmental pressures.

I guess one could consider it an extreme example of "nature v. nurture" (and I almost always line up on the side of nature in that argument), but that situation rarely, if ever, involves multiple species - thus nature would win out in the end.

Mike said...

Yeah, that last thing in the brackets was a (failed) joke. Though maybe someday someone will overcome that conservation of energy law or whatever it is that keeps my plan from being awesome.

As for the duck/chicken thing, I totally agree that shortly after being introduced to the groups of animals, the chicks would eventually find themselves left out or unable to do certain things, at which point the differences would make themselves clear. It's that first moment that's nagging at me though.