Thug Animals

The content below is from Episode 112 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast


  • I recommend you watch HBO Max’s Tokyo Vice
    • The show has 8 episodes out now, each lasts about an hour.
    • The story follows Jake, a young man from Missouri as he tries to make his way through a career at the prestigious Meicho newspaper in Tokyo Japan.
    • His Japanese is seemingly flawless as his new employers and co-workers speak with him in fluent Japanese throughout the show.
    • The show is set in the 90’s (when newspaper was a much more relevant medium). It takes a look inside 1990’s Japanese journalism, police, and organized crime known as the Yakuza.
  • Shannon and I loved this show and we enjoyed watching every episode. Our only complaint is that there aren’t more episodes to watch!


  • Recently, within the last month or so, BBC Earth released footage of Dolphins engaging in a gang war.
    • The footage was taken by underwater cameramen Doug Allan and Didier Noirot.
    • This video sparked a curiosity in me. I’d heard of dolphins showing thug-like behavior before, but never showing up in gangs. What other thug things do dolphins do, and what about other animals we see as cute?
  • Apparently divers have witnessed this dolphin gang behavior before, but this was the first time it was caught on camera.
    • Science Magazine (one of the most reputable scientific publications on the planet) came out with an article last year that talks about this gang behavior.
    • Ganging up is a regular part of the dolphin’s way of life. It is the males that group together to make advantage of the old saying “power in numbers.” Once they’ve created a unified gang, male dolphins will fight off rivals from their territory and also capture females that are ready to mate.
    • These dolphins use whistles to signal their gang to band together. Once they’ve joined up they can pillage however they chose. They are like Vikings of the sea.
      • I might be personifying these creatures a bit too much, but when you consider dolphins and whales have a remarkable mental ability, engage in group communication, and have individual names for each other, I think personification is warranted.
    • When the male dolphin gangs spot a female with a young calf they will kill the calf to force the mother into heat. The males will use their echolocation to target vital organs and then beat the infant dolphin to a pulp. Once the female goes into heat, she will be forcibly mated for weeks by multiple males. The males will make threatening whistles, movements, and even smack the female with their fins and tails to keep her in line.
      • I use the term forcible mating because there is nothing to suggest dolphins can grasp the concept of consent. Therefore, to use the term rape would be inaccurate.
    • There is video evidence that dolphins pursue humans for mating purposes. Videos of dolphins attempting to mate with human divers have been passed around the internet for years now.
      • A male dolphin’s genitals are shaped in a what that forced copulation with a human cannot be ruled out as a mechanical impossibility. So dolphins aren’t always so nice to humans either.
  • Then there are the sea otters…
    • While mating, male sea otters bite the faces of female otters. This behavior can lead to fatal injuries.
    • When female otters aren’t available, male sea otters have been observed fatally humping baby seals. In some cases, they continue to mate with the corpse for up to a week after killing it. The thought is that they are so desperate to mate they take these drastic measures.
  • Penguins might be the worst
    • Male Adelie penguins seem to reach all sorts of desperation in their quest to mate.
    • During the famous failed expedition of Captain Robert Scott
      • The celebrated explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott (1868–1912) also famously took part in the race to claim the South Pole in 1911. Captain Scott and four others perished after reaching the South Pole on January 17, 1912 – only to find Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had beaten them to it more than a month earlier.
    • But Dr. George Murray Levick was on the boat sent to help Captain Scott and crew. After their ship tasked with rescuing Captian Scott, the Terra Nova, was blocked in ice, Dr. Levick survived with 5 others in an ice cave for an entire antarctic winter.
      • The men battled the perilous polar winter and survived in part by eating penguin meat and seal blubber.
      • They survived despite having been forced to spend an entire Antarctic winter in an ice cave, unaware Captain Scott and four others had died.
      • Their journey was meant to save Captain Scott and during their entire 8 months of survival in the Antarctic they were told Captain Scott’s crew had died.
    • During his time in the Antarctic, Dr. Levick witnessed some groundbreaking discoveries about the mating behavior of Adelie Penguins. He is the only researcher to ever see the entire mating cycle.
    • What he saw shocked him.
      • They mate with other males, injured females, lost chicks and corpses. The most desperate penguins even try to mate with the ground.
      • In one scientific study, researchers set out a dead penguin which had been frozen in its mating posture. The males found this corpse “irresistible”.
      • In another case observers put “just the frozen head of a the penguin” on a rock, just to see how far the male penguins were willing to go. They were not deterred.
    • Back in Britain, he published a paper called ‘Natural History of the Adelie Penguin’, but his findings about the species’ astonishing sexual behaviour were considered so shocking that they were omitted.
    • Dr. Levick’s paper was found decades later at the Natural History Museum in the UK and was published for the world to read.
    • The hypothesis today is that sexual inexperience is to blame. Adelie Penguins gather at their colonies in October to start to breed. They have only a few weeks to do that and young adults simply have no experience of how to behave. Scientists believe the inexperience leads to the odd sexual behavior.
  • So what’s the point here?
    • First off, I wanted shock value. Finding out the animal kingdom, especially the creatures we think of as cute and cuddly, is full of forced mating and other depraved acts is definitely shocking.
    • But I also see value in sharing that animals are different than us. They don’t have the same mental capacities as humans. Their ability for empathy and to understand the concept of consent is either non-existent or much less than our own.
    • Real bears aren’t cute cuddly like little teddy bears.
    • Dolphins aren’t magical beings that only want the best for us humans.
    • Otters are not sensitive and sweet.
    • And Penguins are some of the nastiest sons of bitches out there!
  • No, the main point is that human morality and ethics can’t be put on to animals. We can’t judge animals by our standards. It doesn’t work that way.
    • The wilderness or nature is to be respected and understood as best as we can.


    • NPR’s morning edition by Steve Inskeep – People know of dolphins as friendly and sociable. But we don’t often hear the dolphin gangs. A new article in Science magazine says gangs are part of dolphin culture. Male dolphins band together to fight off rivals and capture females in heat. They learn the signature whistles of fellow members. Science magazine writes, quote, “like members of a street gang, male dolphins summon their buddies when it comes time to raid and pillage.” 
    • The Dark Secrets That Dolphins Don’t Want You to Kno – BY MIRIAM GOLDSTEIn – MAY 13, 2009
    • Dolphins are violent predators with a predilection for baby killing and rape. I feel it’s my duty to warn you, despite the risk of insulting creatures made of hundreds of pounds of muscle and rows of sharp teeth. Throw out your rainbow dolphin painting , and check out dolphins’ low-down dirty secrets:
      • –Dolphin sex can be violent and coercive. Gangs of two or three male bottlenose dolphins isolate a single female from the pod and forcibly mate with her, sometimes for weeks at a time. To keep her in line, they make aggressive noises, threatening movements, and even smack her around with their tails. And if she tries to swim away, they chase her down. Horny dolphins have also been known to target human swimmers -Demi Moore is rumored to have had a close encounter of the finny kind.
      • Dolphins kill harbor porpoise babies. In Scotland, scientists found baby harbor porpoises washed up with horrific internal injuries. They thought the porpoises might have been killed by weapons tests until they found the toothmarks. Later, dolphins were caught on film pulping the baby porpoises-the dolphins even used their ecolocation to aim their blow at the porpoises’ vital organs.
      • Dolphins kill their own babies. Baby dolphins have washed up alongside the dead porpoises, and some scientists think that all the porpoise-slaughter was just practice for some old-fashioned infanticide . For other mammals like lions, killing the babies makes the females immediately ready for the next pregnancy, and maybe that’s the case with dolphins, too.
    • -2013
    • Slate also dismantled the unjustifiably clean reputation of the sea otter. Male otters have developed a bad habit of humping and fatally wounding baby seals in their desperation to mate, sometimes continuing to have sex with the seals up to a week after killing them.
    • Not that sex between consenting otters is much better. Males often kill females from their own species by biting their faces during sex.
    • That said, these crimes pale in comparison to the atrocities committed by Adelie penguins. Male penguins mate with other males, injured females, lost chicks and corpses. The most desperate penguins even try to mate with the ground, Slate reports.
    • In one scientific study, researchers set out a dead penguin which had been frozen in its mating posture. The males found this corpse “irresistible”.
    • Then the scientists placed “just the frozen head of a the penguin” on a rock, just to see how far the male penguins were willing to go. They weren’t deterred.
    • Brian Switek, who wrote the Slate article, was careful to stress that we shouldn’t judge animals by human standards.
    • That’s a fair point. Even so, we’ll never look at penguins or dolphins the same way again.
  • BBC Earth
    • Dolphins and whales may appear to be totally alien to us. But with their mental ability, group communication and the discovery that dolphins have individual names, they are closer to us than we ever imagined. 

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