[personal profile] singerinthedark
So, I was watching this old Mickey Mouse cartoon, "The Brave Little Taylor," and a thought occurred to me as the giant in the film sat on a house: Why isn't there record of people complaining about giant scat as a by-product of having giants as a pest species?

I'll give you a moment to reflect on this.

...

Still with me? Then here goes:

Just as not all coyotes will go after a flock of sheep, it may be that not all giants will ravage a town. (That could be a whole article on its own - the evolution of behavior in giants and its implication for species survival.) Giants and humans would be in direct conflict for the resource of space. Giants, being a large, humanoid species, would have to be a K-selected species (long-living, slow-growing, low reproduction rate) because the carrying capacity of any earth-like planet would be highly limited for a creature that size. So there would be few giants around, but a very large territory for each family group if social or a slightly smaller one for each if highly territorial. Now, assuming you're living in a lucky village that borders the territory of a giant or giants that *don't* harass you, you'll still have to deal with the issues of giant waste where human and giant territory overlap.

Think about it - assuming a giant has a similar metabolism to humans (and that's a HUGE assumption), the amount of waste produced would be proportional. Yeah, that's a pretty big problem. Chances are, giants being "warm-blooded" (another assumption based on visual physiology), their proportional metabolism would be even higher than your average humans - it would take more energy consumed per pound of body mass for a giant to maintain a moderately active lifestyle than it would take a human to maintain a similarly active lifestyle. All of this is contingent on the popular vision of giants being much larger than a thatched-roof house - big enough to sit on one with ease.

Anyway, back to waste pollution. If giants are of human intelligence, they might have knowledge to build a latrine, outhouse, or other such convenience. However, if it was anywhere near the town there'd be air pollution. (I won't give details or examples. I trust your own vivid imagination.)

...

This is a thin outline of a larger idea (no really, I have LOTS to say on this and related subjects in a fairly ecology-geeky way). I'm thinking of really fleshing this out, and perhaps expounding on other possible mythological, fantastical, and legendary pest species. (When you can't find a job directly related to your degree, you can always make up a hobby that does.) I'd like to get some actual sources, cite them, and make a real go of it. I don't need another project, but this one would be fun to pick up and put down on occasion.

Any suggestions on resources or places to start my research? Suggestions/requests for future articles on mythological pests? Any thoughts in general?

Date: 2008-07-01 04:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] temperance14.livejournal.com
Paging [livejournal.com profile] fools_and_irish, Ms. Fleidermaus has found your classroom project....

Date: 2008-07-01 05:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] figsauce.livejournal.com
Any thoughts in general?

Yes. Were I a male, I would take you in a manly fashion. 'Cause you're geeky.

Date: 2008-07-01 06:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] battymaiden.livejournal.com
Why thank you, my dear.

Date: 2008-07-01 05:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tsgeisel.livejournal.com
Also look for the Niven article, "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex".

Date: 2008-07-01 05:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lyahdan.livejournal.com
Must work that into a game somewhere.

Given all the tales about giants sleeping for ages (mountains that are sleeping giants, sitting on a hillside and having it wake up...etc), I'm going to posit that there's evidence that they have a lower metabolism than one might expect. Or perhaps tend to cycle between active and inactive.

Long inactive periods between gathering/breeding seasons? Legends of giant dances, and some attribution of earthquakes to such activity may support that hypothesis.

In which case, you have long periods without much problem...but you *really* don't want to live near the breeding grounds. phew!

Date: 2008-07-01 06:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] battymaiden.livejournal.com
Yes, but what kind of energy stores would it take to keep a warm-blooded body like that alive for ages - even given those ages are spent sleeping? Oooooh! There's plenty of research on 'hibernation" and such in bears. I'll bet I could find that information and figure out respiration rates and such. Of course, storing up for such long naps could account for the irritable behavior and the occasional village razing. Also, giant overpopulation could be what causes some giants to switch prey from forest animals to human beings...

Yeah, breeding grounds would be a WHOLE other problem. :)

Date: 2008-07-01 03:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] temperance14.livejournal.com
Y'know, if he were alive (and much younger), I think Isaac Asimov would have taken you in a manly fashion.

Date: 2008-07-01 07:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emilia-romagna.livejournal.com
To be fair, he probably would have done it while he was old, too.

Date: 2008-07-01 03:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ribbin.livejournal.com
Takes a lot of cotton to build a futon of that size!

But damn, giant college towns would be a happenin' place!

Date: 2008-07-02 12:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] battymaiden.livejournal.com
Speaking of breeding, since humans appear to be a sought-after delicacy amongst giant-kind, it could be that the hunting and consumption of human flesh is a nuptial gift...

Date: 2008-07-02 02:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] terpsichoros.livejournal.com
Larger animals consume less food, proportional to their body weight, than smaller ones. Mice eat half their weight per day. Not even infant humans eat that much.

A giant that can sit on a human cottage has a seat-height of about 7 feet. A chair that has a seat 1.4 feet off the floor is a little low, so we can assume that giants are about 4 to 5 times as tall as humans, so we could assume somewhere up to about 27 feet tall.

Date: 2008-07-02 03:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] battymaiden.livejournal.com
*head-smack* I got the size-metabolism ratio backwards. This is part of why I post these things: You all correct my mistakes and come up with even more interesting considerations.


I love my friends!

Date: 2008-07-01 06:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] whalejudge.livejournal.com
One might also be forced to consider the cultural level of the giants. If they farm, they might be using their own waste as fertilizer.

Date: 2008-07-01 06:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] battymaiden.livejournal.com
Most creatures do not defecate where they eat, an instinct that keeps fecal-borne illness to a minimum in most populations. Humans, in general, do not use their own waste as fertilizer because of the ick factor. It's o-kay to use cow waste, but if it came from your own self, it's disgusting. It is reasonable to assume that if the giants have developed culture, then they may have similar taboos.

Then again, they may not.

In any case, there is no evidence of giants farming recorded in anything I've read. I'd have to do more research to see if there are any references out there that contradict what I know so far.

Date: 2008-07-01 10:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] whalejudge.livejournal.com
I think some human cultures do, in fact, use human waste as fertilizer. Certainly nightsoil collection in 18th and 19th century cities was practiced with that in mind.

However, outside the Norse, most stories of giants I am familiar with involve solitary individuals, at best maintaining a flock of sheep or other domestic animals, often preying upon human populations. Their waste would be unlikely to accumulate in any particular abundance. These individuals may, however, be quite aberrant; almost all such reported giants are male. This suggests a social structure far different from human, and implies that they may be obligate carnivores.

One might also note that Loxodonta and Elephas both seem to support beetles that consume primarily their dung. Archaeological evidence further exists that the same was true of Mammathus, Mammut, Megalonyx, Eremotherium, Nothrotheriops, and Glossotherium. Perhaps the giants also support their own set of beetles?

Date: 2008-07-01 07:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emilia-romagna.livejournal.com
Some human groups have used human waste as a fertilizer, in the absence of other, better sources. Human waste isn't particularly massive or nutritious, and would be a lower tier choice.

Also, pastoralism is often related to patricarchy and sharper division of labor, so just because all we see are the male giants doing work, that doesn't make them aberrant. Just more visible. Its also not that different from possible human social structure in the early hominids, who weren't meat eaters.

Date: 2008-07-01 07:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emilia-romagna.livejournal.com
Nr... got my thoughts a little confused there. Will clarify after class

Date: 2008-07-01 09:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] whalejudge.livejournal.com
Well, no, not necessarily aberrant. A number of social species have a male-dispersion society, wherein males are expelled from the female-dominated social grouping and either find a group of females or engage in ritual combats during a breeding season. The problem with that theory is that the giants in the stories do not appear to be either young adults recently expelled from the herd or older males who have lost their mates; they appear most often to be in their prime, with some older individuals.

Date: 2008-07-02 12:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] battymaiden.livejournal.com
Again, this all depends on whether giants are social creatures or not. From what I've read, there is little evidence to suggest that females stay in large social groups, let alone that there are female giants. It could be just as likely that males establish and set territory and females choose a mate based on the territory and resources of the males (in addition to any other sexual selection pressures there may be on male giants). In this case, it may be the females who guard and maintain the giant's domicile, while the males maintain territory and bring home the spoils of their pillaging (or hunting or whatever). There is a lot of support for female "nesting" behavior across a wide variety of species, including that of humans.

Anyway, territorial males and nesting females is just as likely as "prides" of female giants. More likely, even, as many giants would be cause more of a hubub than few giants, depending on territory and proximity to human habitation.

Date: 2008-07-01 07:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emilia-romagna.livejournal.com
So, here's some thoughts about archaeological theory here...

Size of poop can be related to diet - meat heavy diets provide less waste, while plant heavy diets (rich in fiber!) provide um... more. Giants are portrayed as either meat exclusive or primary eaters (true carnivorous mammals are a little rare). Extrapolating to the Inuit of Siberia, it is possible for pastoralists to maintain an almost exclusively meat diet. The bigger you get, the harder it is to maintain though. Pastoralists also require a great deal of territory, over which to spread the poop as well. Hm... wonder what those rounded, low lying mountains are made of?

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August 2010

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