Freaks Survive Because They Are Strange
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May 12, 2009: Scientists have discovered that predators are more likely to eat the most common subgroup of their prey.

At first blush, it seems so trivial. That summary totally hides the significance of this discovery. One of the major paradoxes of evolutionary theory involves the maintenance of variation, that if one gene gives an advantage, it should come to dominate within the population. On paper, there should be far less variation within species than what there is in real life. This is one of those little oddities that have given fuel to Intelligent Design.

However, this new study suggests that being or looking different is itself an advantage. Let's say most of your species is striped (like the salamanders in the article), which is an advantage, because it of the camouflage it provides them. On paper, being the lone unstripped member of your species should make you an easy target. But instead, the predators are busy looking for striped prey and miss you. Or they spot you, and think there's something wrong with you, so they leave you alone.

In other words, freaks survive because they are strange, not in spite of being strange.



Game and Story Use

  • This is good news for the gaming community. We will never be eaten by wolves.
    • An After The End game could have a lot of fun with this idea. It's 10 years after the alien invasion, the return of the dinosaurs, or whatever, and the majority of the population have been eaten. The PCs are Goths, Punks, Circus Freaks, Nerds with Pocket Protectors, Otherkin, etc, who were skipped over in the first years of predation because they looked too weird. Now, however, only the strange remain, so they're effectively the norm and have become the prey.
      • Such a game might involve frequent costume changes, strange props, and a sense of fashion-consciousness that would put Cyberpunk 2020 to shame. If too many people are wearing the same style of clothing, they're all dinner.
      • The Adventuring Party might end up looking like The Village People.
        • See also League of Extraordinary Whatevers for a party made of wacky-looking celebrities.
          • I tried really hard to generate a party roster that was funny, but not offensive… I just couldn't succeed on the non-offensive part.
  • Suddenly, the ecology of most fantasy settings makes a lot more sense. I can just picture a couple of ferocious Dragons saying "I don't think we should eat him, he's the only two-headed pink unicorn in this whole dungeon-forest."
    • Or better yet: "I don't wanna eat clown, Mom! They taste funny."
  • This research justifies subverting numerous horror tropes.
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