Bird Study Suggests Effects of Childhood Bullying Don’t Last

An article by Sundya N. Bhanoo in the NY Times seems to advance the startling idea that one bird study might revise our ideas about the effects of childhood bullying across biology.  Or perhaps we are seeing the influence of grant-application speak..

What also comes out that is far more interesting is the horrendous tale of the blue-footed Booby family:

Boobies are marine birds that typically lay two eggs that hatch four days apart. During a four-month nesting period, the senior sibling is known to peck and attack its junior sibling incessantly until the younger bird becomes habitually submissive.

Senior chicks end up gaining an advantage in terms of size, strength and motor coordination over their younger siblings.

The Booby Nest

There is no mention of what the mother or main chick-carer is doing about all this.  In any case, here’s the bottom line:

Mr. Sánchez-Macouzet and his co-authors studied adult boobies between the ages of 5 and 13 off the Pacific Coast of Mexico. As adults raised chicks of their own, the researchers presented them with a stand-up cardboard model of an intruder held about 35 inches away.

All boobies, regardless of birth order, instantly responded with aggressive displays.

The study suggests that aggressiveness in vertebrates might not be affected by early childhood bullying, as many biologists and psychologists generally assumed, Mr. Sánchez-Macouzet said.

This last comment is quite possibly part of the next grant proposal.