Alpha beta gamma

In small packs of mammals there’s an alpha male who gets all the females by fighting off the other males, who have to go off and live by themselves and get stronger before the next rutting season.  This is a pattern for instance among sea lions, and elephant seals, and horned beasts like elk.

But nature is funny.  At the Tule Elk State Natural Reserve in Buttonwillow they have an interesting piece of taxidermy.  It’s two elks that got in a fight, the alpha I guess and a challenger.  The one elk’s horn went in the other elk’s eye, and killed him.  Which would seem like a win, except with his horn caught on a dead elk, unable to get it off, the surviving elk ended up getting weighed down and dying himself.

The rangers swore that’s what happened, anyway.

There’s all this talk about alpha and beta in advice to young men, which overlooks that our society is quite a bit more complex, there are lots of ways to distinguish yourself and make yourself attractive, and our females are not as simpleminded and docile as cow-elks.

When it comes to alpha and beta, maybe sometimes what you want is to let them two kill each other and be the Gamma Guy left standing.

 



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