A Moment of Science

Groundhogs Benefit From Being Bullied

Bullying is bad. Those who are bullied suffer either physical or mental anguish, and often both. Except if you're a yellow bellied marmot.

groundhogs eating

Photo: wvholst (flickr)

There are some advantages to being small.

Bullying is bad. Those who are bullied suffer either physical or mental anguish, and often both.

Except if you’re a yellow bellied marmot.

Bullying Benefits

Like many rodents, marmots live in groups, or colonies. And like many such colonies, there’s a well defined social hierarchy, with alpha males and females at the top and all others below. The alpha males get to mate with females and assert their dominance by bullying smaller, weaker males.

But what is surprising is that the poor, weak marmots who get picked on the most seem to live longer and have more offspring.

Why Does This Happen?

Because for social animals, being in a group is what’s important. And since not everyone can be boss, there have to be some animals in the group that fill the role of getting bullied.

Because they play an essential role in the group dynamic, bullied marmots are valuable. And while bullied marmots may not get the choicest females, because they’re valuable, bullied marmots do attract attention from a good number of female marmots who mate with them.

That’s the theory, anyhow. What researchers know for a fact is that victim tendencies in marmots are inherited. In other words, bullied marmots are having babies and passing their victim genes on to their kids.

So even though it can’t be fun to be bullied, even if you’re a marmot, in this case it’s not all bad news.

Read More:

  • Being Bullied Has Its Benefits for Groundhogs (LiveScience)

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