reciprocal food sharing

To those of you who celebrate Christmas, I hope you had a lovely morning! There’s really only one pokémon fit to examine for today: Delibird, the Delivery Pokémon, with it’s signature move Present!

Delibird, of course, is an avian version of Santa Clause. This generous ice-type shares food and presents from a bag it carries around, which is apparently actually its tail.

Animals have tails for a variety of reasons. Many birds and cheetahs use it for balance or mobility while running or flying. For scorpions, their tails are weapons. Peacocks have grand tails used to attract mates. Fish use their tails to swim. Zebras, cows, and horses rely on their tails to swat away flies and other pests. Dogs and cats use their tails to help communicate emotion by wagging or hiding them between their legs. Foxes often use their tails to keep warm in the winters. Alligators use their tails to store fat.

But no animal uses their tail quite like Delibird does, to stash and distribute food or presents. Delibird’s tail might be similar to gopher or chipmunk cheeks, stuffed full of food. Alternatively, Delibird’s tail more closely resembles a Marsupial’s pouch, like a Kangaroo’s. You can learn more about Maruspial pouches in our Kangaskhan entry

Delibird’s generosity is a little more rare in the animal kingdom. Most animals aren’t willing to share their hard-earned food, especially not to creatures outside their own family. This behavior, known as reciprocal food sharing is something animals do, however. Specifically, its been observed in insects, birds, whales, vampire bats, and primates.

Vampire bats, for example, must eat every 2-3 days or they will starve to death. Because of this, lucky vampire bats who find a meal will often share with others. The debt is often “repaid” through grooming. 

Pack animals, like wolves or birds, will share food because they are more likely to survive as a group than as individuals. 

Other insect, bird, and mammal species share their food with potential mates. To make the female like him more, a male will supply her with food to appear more attractive. Insects, on the other hand, provide food so that their mate will be too full to eat them after the deed is done. 

Alternatively, animals will sometimes share food with young animals and babies which can’t yet hunt for themselves. 

Knowing this, why does Delibird share its food with so many different species? It’s possible that Delibird sees all pokémon (and humans) as small, helpless creatures that can’t hunt for themselves. Or, perhaps Delibird was often hunted by predators, but if it simply gave food away instead, the predator would leave it alone.

Delibird must be good at finding food: Given how much that it gives away, it must still keep enough for itself so it can survive.

Delibird stores food and other gifts in its pouch-like tail. It shares this food with other species to ensure its own survival: it gives them something else to eat so Delibird itself is not eaten.

Merry Christmas, everyone!