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Looney Tunes Refuted

June 28, 2012

The other day I was at the Alamogordo Zoo in Alamogordo, New Mexico, and I saw something that challenged some of the earliest and most persistent lessons of my childhood. There is a coyote enclosure there, and just as I was passing it I saw a roadrunner come up and leap/fly up to the top of the fence. This was not a display roadrunner, but a free creature among the captives. It perched there for a good long time, and it was hard not to feel that it was taunting the poor coyotes, showing off its freedom from the prison that held them. But then it leaped down into the enclosure itself and starting foraging around, in full view of the coyotes. And they did not give chase! The coyotes showed nothing but complete indifference to the bird in their midst. The two species coexisted in perfect harmony.

Now we all know that Chuck Jones and his collaborators were completely ignorant of even the most basic principles of physics, and that they were grossly unfair in their depiction of Acme products. But you might have thought that when it came to central character conflicts, the heart of all drama and comedy (and, indeed, dramedy), Looney Tunes would have hewed closely to the true facts of Southwestern behavioral zoology. Evidently, this is not so. My friends, we have been lied to.

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