Was squash outburst animal behavior?
If you're at all familiar with the Internet, you've probably seen this footage of Trinity College squash player Baset Chaudhy going medieval on Yale's Kenneth Chan. What you didn't know: Chaudhy isn't actually going medieval. He's going "Animal Planet." Just ask the experts:
Does this resemble any behavior in the animal kingdom?
Dr. Robert Epstein, research psychologist and former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today: "Chaudhy made a very primitive, primate-like threat display. If you've ever taken your dog to a dog park, you've seen many."
Megan Blake, pet expert and host of PBS' "Animal Attractions TV": "The closest animal to this behavior might be the harbor seals, who get in each others faces and howl as a display of power."
Epstein: "Dogs bare their teeth and growl. Cats hiss and arch their backs. Lizards gape their jaws. Various species of birds thrust their heads forward or spread their wings. And gorillas show a horrible 'fright face,' which looks like a grimace -- but not a happy one."
Blake: "This is not common in the animal kingdom. Both wild and domestic animals have the instinct to survive, and getting within inches of an opponent's face and aggressively vocalizing puts one in range of a mortal strike."
What is the purpose of such behavior?
Blake: "Cats howl when engaging in fight behavior prior to a strike as a warning to their opponent."
Epstein: "The threat display is a warning, saying, 'Back down! You can't beat me!'"
Blake: "With dogs and wolves, the dominant wolf may growl and, with body language and close proximity, show his dominance over another pack member. When that pack member assumes a submissive posture, the dominant dog or wolf may then walk away. In the video, Chan stood erect and maintained eye contact, indicating he was not metaphorically lying down. Is this like dog and wolf behavior? Not really, because the aggressive opponent turned his back on a non-submissive pack member, and he could have then been attacked."
Epstein: "Many species go way beyond the threat, all the way to what are called 'surplus kills' -- kills that are not related to nutrition needs."
What triggers something like this?
Epstein: "It often involves fights over territory, food or mates. One can make the case that when it comes to highly competitive college sports, all three are at stake."
Blake: "This is too dangerous to do in the animal kingdom. So perhaps we can speculate that the human was simply releasing the emotion he felt during the game -- a dangerous move in the non-human animal world. [Chaudhy] might have been killed for such an indulgence."
What are the possible and usual outcomes of this behavior?
Blake: "If an animal did this to an evenly matched opponent, the aggressor would be opening himself up for attack when he turned his flank to move away -- a matter of life and death."
Epstein: "There are generally two possible outcomes, both of which I observed while spending hours one day watching elephant seals -- gigantic and scary, nothing like the circus ones -- compete over females. The smaller, weaker animal either backs down, or a fight ensues, usually with a predictable outcome."
Patrick Hruby is a freelance writer and ESPN.com contributor. Contact him at PatrickHruby.net.
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