Social Question

rebbel's avatar

Can there possibly be anything more 'cruel' than this in wildlife?

Asked by rebbel (24954points) January 15th, 2012

Watching a documentary on the Great Barrier Reef, I saw the difficult path that sea turtle hatchlings have to go before they reach the (relative) safety of the ocean.
From the moment they come out of their protective eggs and head for the coastline they are attacked, first by birds that are awaiting them who’ll feed their youngsters with them, and then by rock crabs.
This appears to be so cruel; you are just minutes alive and then your life can be cut short immediately.
Is there anything similar or more ‘cruel’ in nature, that you know of?

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27 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

Cruelty is a human-assigned emotion. Since we are talking sea turtles, human emotions are not relevant.

I would consider what you described as the result of millions of years of evolution, and of the way that nature works. This is nature in action.

As such, it is neither good nor cruel, positive or negative. Rather it is part of the way the world is, has been, and always will be.

PhiNotPi's avatar

Nature isn’t nice. Since people live in civilization away from nature, we can allow ourselves to lose touch with nature. Think about it this way: if nature was nice and kind and comfortable, why would people have spent the last several thousand years trying to get away from it?

Some examples: Dolphins schooling their prey into a small area so that they can be killed en masse. Orcas playing a game of ‘catch’ with their prey by tossing it into the air while it is still alive. Hornets injecting their eggs into caterpillars and grubs so that the wasp larva slowly eat the caterpillar from the inside out for nourishment. The Venus fly trap captures its prey and dissolves it while the insect is still alive. Spiders first capture their prey and then kill it by injecting a substance that dissolves the insect’s flesh from the inside out. There are diseases that liquefy a person flesh while the person is still alive. They they cause the person’s intestinal tract to fall apart and out of the person.

Nature is very cruel and indescriminate in its suffering, but such is the way of life.

rebbel's avatar

I know and understand that, @elbanditoroso, about humans putting emotional value to these phenomenae.
That is why I put the word cruel as follows: ‘cruel’.
I am asking my fellow Jellies for similar happenings in nature that we, humans, label as being ‘cruel’.

MilkyWay's avatar

I think @rebbel knows it’s the way of life. He just wanted to know any circumstances that seemed more extreme…
Some animals, such as the Piranha, are cannibals. When they can’t find food, they eat each other…
This website tells us how and why some animals eat their own young, such as ”A mother pet rat may eat her own offspring.”

flutherother's avatar

Man is the cruellest thing in Nature.

CWOTUS's avatar

You haven’t even touched on dolphin rape.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@CWOTUS Damn, you beat me to it. Dolphins really are the frat boys of the ocean..

Ron_C's avatar

Nature is neither cruel or kind. The fact that turtles have a high fertility rate is also why baby turtles are lunch for so many creatures. Just imagine if all the turtles hatched lived to maturity. We wouldn’t be able to go into the ocean without walking on the backs of turtles.

Imagine what a screwed up world we would have if a kind and merciful god looked after all of creation.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, yeah. There are wasps that lay their eggs in the body of a live host, and when the eggs hatch the baby wasps eat the host alive, from the inside out.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Around here coyotes prey on whitetail deer fawns. Same thing really. Survival of the fittest improves the gene pool.

Sunny2's avatar

Cruelty? It’s the food chain at its finest.
God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to achieve.

linguaphile's avatar

Cruelty indicates intent to hurt- the emotional pleasure and satisfaction of seeing something reduced to its most vulnerable and pathetic state.

In nature, I don’t see animals eating others up as cruelty, but as survival. There’s no pleasure gained from the victim’s suffering.

Lions eating baby gazelles, crocodiles holding baby hippos underwater while they flail and fight, then die of drowning, snakes eating bunnies alive and you can see the animal struggling inside the snake’s stomach, wolves and other wild canines shredding animals to death, scorpions stinging spiders or spiders wrapping a struggling fly in a web—it’s everywhere in nature and is not nice—but it’s survival.

Humans, on the other hand, have ways to adapt and survive and we are not limited by geography and ecosystem. We also have the cognitive and emotional properties to understand and feel a wide range of concepts… and unfortunately, with that comes the ability to be cruel.

Ron_C's avatar

@linguaphile have you ever seen a cat play with its’ prey? The really seem to enjoy torturing mice and bugs before finally putting them out of their misery

linguaphile's avatar

@Ron_C Good one… but is it cruelty or lack of empathy. For me, cruelty requires some knowledge of how the victim feels, and oddly enough, requires empathy, just a twisted form.

Cats playing with their prey, seems to me, more of enjoying the cause and effect more than the pain… what do you think?

Ron_C's avatar

@linguaphile I want to believe your theory about empathy It’s better than thinking my cats were intentionally cruel.

gondwanalon's avatar

Perhaps it might help to think about what would happen if all of the baby turtles made it to the ocean and survived to adulthood unharmed. It is obvious that there would soon be far too many turtles for the ocean to sustain. This would not only put severe pressure on other ecosystems but would also cause mass starvation of the turtles. As it is now the turtles are doing OK if one or two baby turtles lives long enough to reproduce. It is best to just let it be and let nature run its course.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, there is no space for human projection of emotion, it is what others have expressed, natures way.
I live in a wildlife area, and bobcats, cougars and coyotes will eat house cats out here.
It is always a hidden threat. I have lost 4 cats “mysteriously” in 20 years, out of a total of 10, the rest all lived to ripe old ages as indoor/outdoor cats.
Not too bad.

I’m not counting the dozens of chickens killed, and a goose that survived having her neck wrung by a Bobcat. lol
Nature is nature and survival is the game.
I have observed that the most likely cats to be lost are the younger, under 3 years old group. They are the ones that wander too far afield into the woods.

The survivors are the ones that have already gotten familiar with the predators and know the safe hangout zones.
Adapt of die. haha

King_Pariah's avatar

Oh let’s see, we make plenty of our own, like genocide, mass murder, rape, etc. Humans truly are capable of some tremendously “cruel” acts in and out of our natural habitat.

Berserker's avatar

Some solitary wasps lay eggs on caterpillars. The eggs hatch when the caterpillar is in its cocoon, and the larva eats the inside of the cocoon. I liked doing experiments with caterpillars when I was little. Catching some, putting them in a salad bowl with a strainer on top, and wait until they become butterflies. But more often than not, I got some nasty wasp instead. (or other parasitic monstrosities) I guess it’s more disturbing than cruel…but things like that only do what their instincts tell them to, I doubt wasps or turtles have any intent at all.

elbanditoroso's avatar

What’s surprising to me in this discussion is that no one has come in to tell us that:

a) adaptation (and by extension, evolution) doesn’t exist.

b) that some deity has planned the death of turtle hatchlings, and what happens is the will of that deity.

What a refreshing conversation this is.

Berserker's avatar

@elbanditoroso Tell me about it lol.

Coloma's avatar

The spiritual/philosophy guru Eckhart Tolle speaks of how, as humans, we resist the idea that our physical organism is not any more of less important that that of the gazillion of other organisms that come and go in the cycles of life.
He speaks of all the organisms, like the sea turtle hatchlings, of which few survive until adulthood.
He likens mans ego and the “story” of who we are, ( more ego ) as being akin to naming a goldfish, telling the fish it’s family “story” ( history) and issuing a birth certificate to the goldfish to add to the story of the fishes identity.
Then, of course, we have afforded this huge identity to an organism and therefore it;s death is greatly mourned rather than simply accepted for what it is, an organism that did not survive, like billions of other organisms that come and go every second of the night and day.

It wasn’t all that long ago that people often did not even name their infants until they survived for a year. In other words, they did not make up an identity for their offspring until it looked as if they might survive that critical first year or so.
As humans we have afforded all these good/bad, cruel/unjust, ” should/should NOT” “stories” to the natural ebb & flow of life, and we feel highly victimized when members of our family organisms perish. Especially when they do not jive with the “story” that babies, children and young adults should NOT die.

They do, and it is really true that we create so much suffering over these baseline facts and our human need to afford a “special” status to our human organism.

laureth's avatar

Re: Can there possibly be anything more ‘cruel’ than this in wildlife?

How about what this bison did? (Video: not for people who think nature is happy all the time.)

And then, even then, it helped the rest of the herd get away. Such is the balance in nature.

Berserker's avatar

Holy crap. It knocked the other down to secure the safety of the herd? That’s pretty interesting.

laureth's avatar

Or…something. Maybe just to put it out of its misery? I don’t know. But it is a compelling view.

Berserker's avatar

Seems to me it was doing it out of necessity, so the wolves would concentrate on the fallen bison. I think…I don’t know how much animals know about cruelty or sympathy, not like how we interpret it anyways. You might be right, as in any case, all bisons were home free since that single one had all the wolves on em. Do bisons have leaders? Like an alpha bison? The one that knocked down his buddy seemed a lot bigger than the other ones.

laureth's avatar

Based on the last paragraph on page 12 and the beginning of page 13 here, I think the answer is “It depends.”

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