Monday, March 27, 2006

The Natural History of Bikers

Dear Indigna,

Why, why, why must bikers make their motorcycles so ear-splitting? What is the appeal of making such a loud, horrible noise that they can actually damage the hearing of everyone around them?

Losing My Mind As Well
Bozeman, MT

Dear Losing,

Evolutionary biologists have actually made a study of this behavior. They have found that the loud roaring is actually a form of communication, akin to that of elephants. Apparently these low-frequency sounds can be heard by bikers for miles, and serve to transmit such information as make, model and year of the bike, date of last maintenance, gang membership, current location, gender, sexual preferences, and cigarette brand.

Astonishingly enough, the similarity of bikers to elephants does not stop there. Both animals move in family-like units, though the members of a so-called biker “club” are not necessarily related by blood, unlike the members of an elephant herd. Both herds and “clubs,” or “gangs,” as they are sometimes called, tend to be dominated by an alpha male surrounded by a number of females who appear to function as a sort of shared harem among the male members of the group. Although juveniles are often seen in elephant herds, however, they are almost unheard of in biker gangs.

Both species are extremely dangerous when they feel their territory is under threat, and both will charge with lethal suddenness if challenged. Both elephants and bikers tend to congregate in specific locations, or “watering holes,” as they are surprisingly called for both species, often in great numbers. How the arrangements for these seemingly impromptu gatherings are made is still a mystery, but presumably the low-frequency sounds are able to convey this information as well. Both species mourn their dead and often return to the site of a group member’s death, which in the case of bikers is often, coincidentally, one of the places where they tend to congregate for casual socializing.

Are bikers a branch on the elephant’s evolutionary tree? Could they represent a species that split off from the main branch millions of years ago, migrated to the West, and developed independently? One fact in favor of this hypothesis is that motorcycle clubs are almost unheard-of in locations where elephants are found in the wild. One possible explanation for this fact could have been a rivalry that resulted in the utter banishment of the group that evolved into bikers. Only the work of genetic mapping will tell us for sure.

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