The science behind yellowjacket cannibalism

T:Violence against teenage girls can often feel like life or death, but yellow jackets, Showtime’s hit series about a New Jersey girl’s soccer team stranded in the desert, really is. Hungry, freezing, and with no animals to hunt and nothing to lose, the teenagers slowly turned from classmates to cannibals.

It is not an unrealistic scenario. the show’s creators cited real-life disasters that inspired it, many of which turned to cannibalism. But to feed a dozen mouths, that seems like an unsustainable dietary strategy for the show’s survivors. The creators of the show are planning three more seasons, so viewers are left to wonder. How can any of the yellow jackets survive until their rescue?

What do we know about it so far? yellow jackets schedule

The team’s plane seems to crash in the spring, and they get through the summer quite easily, hunting animals. But as soon as the snow starts, the Yellow Jackets, now a different kind of team that includes their assistant coach Ben and the head coach’s two sons, Travis and Javi, run out of food. After Queen Jackie discovers that her best friend, Shauna, has slept with (and gotten pregnant with) her boyfriend, but is unable to get the group to turn against her, Jackie retreats alone into the cold, where she freezes to death. in the early winter snow. Jackie becomes the first member of the team to be depleted in late November, after the team has starved (and kept her body) for nearly two months.

Pure desperation is what drives the group to cross the line to eat one of their own in the first place, which is consistent with what we know about the long history of human cannibalism. “We’ve seen bone cut marks and teeth marks from about a million years ago,” said James Cole, senior lecturer in archeology at the University of Brighton in England. Eating animals has always been preferable to eating people, in part because humans have less meat on their frames compared to creatures like cows or mammoths. But when animals were scarce, due to disease, weather or competition, people did turn to it, Cole said.

Jackie’s removal from the group before her death probably made it easier for her to sit through the eating act emotionally, says Cole (who doesn’t watch the show). “Because he is no longer seen as an integral member of the group, their empathy is undermined,” he says.

Probably a month later (judging by the length of Shauna’s pregnancy), the team is desperately hungry again. Because we know the team ends up spending 19 months in the desert, with another 10 months to go between the meal Javi cooks at the end of the season and their remote rescue.

The scary science behind real-life cannibalism

So how much food can the human body handle? Cole 2017 Nature Scientific Reports, which examines cannibalism in Paleolithic times and how many calories the practice would have produced, offers some clues. Cole analyzed the total chemical breakdown of the human body and calculated that the skeletal muscle of a Paleolithic man contained 32,375 calories. Adding organs, skin, bone marrow, and other body parts that are likely to be consumed in a survival situation will increase the count to about 125,822 calories.

A standard Paleolithic man in Cole’s study weighed only 110 pounds, while the average weight of a 17-year-old girl yellow jackets According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the universe that was set in the 1990s was 137 pounds. Of course, starvation can cause significant weight loss, the amount of which can vary greatly from person to person based on complex metabolic factors. Some data on previously healthy hunger strikers indicate that serious medical problems begin when about 18% of body weight is lost; although some yellow jackets have undoubtedly exceeded this limit, this brings them down to 112 pounds each as a rough estimate. Therefore, the average yellow jacket (most of whom are high school students) will provide about 128,109 edible calories. Because Travis and Coach Ben, two other survivors, are both male, they would have brought in more calories, about 149,843 and 161,796, respectively, using the CDC’s average weights for a 17-year-old boy and a man in his 20s at the time. and the same estimate of weight loss induced by starvation.

Read more: How wild yellow jackets The Season 2 finale sets up a wild path forward

The worst-case scenario is that only Travis and the six girls we see as adults—Shauna, Natalie, Taisa, Van, Lottie, and Misty—survive, which would leave them with roughly four other Yellow Jackets and Coach Ben to eat more than 10 month For a total of 674,235 calories.

The Desert Diet of Yellow Jackets

Sydney Daly, University of Michigan nutritionist Team Performance (who hasn’t seen yellow jackets), says that even athletes with high metabolic rates “can survive on very little food for quite a long time.” Water, which yellow jackets do have, is much more necessary. While the team in New Jersey would probably consume about 2,000 calories a day, closer to 800 could keep them in a survival situation, he says. “But without the right amount of certain nutrients, you can have some really serious health problems,” says Daly. Plus, after all these months, they’ve all lost weight and are running on empty.

We haven’t seen yellow jackets eat much edible vegetation other than the faint-sounding soup. But the fact that they’re all still alive after nine months in the wilderness, let alone healthy enough to run around and try to hunt each other down, probably means they’re biting tracks. something it’s not meat. “Eating meat strictly, whether it’s human flesh or animal flesh, can just cause a lot of discomfort,” says Daly, mostly “really horrible gut problems.” Assuming our survivors get about 100 calories a day from things like berries, ferns, and belt soup, that puts their long-term survival needs at about 700 a day after those snacks.

So, assuming that the number of people sharing each caloric load decreases by one per hunt (and that they only kill one mate at a time), that means the seven surviving yellow jackets would be able to last about 109 days on the diet. their teammates and their measly meals. But that’s just a little over three months when they still have 10 months to go in the wilderness. In fact, according to our calculations, only two yellow jackets could survive to survival on this diet alone, and that’s even if they minimize sharing by keeping Ben and Travis for last.

How will the show keep the yellow jackets going for the remaining months? Trapped teammates could return to regular hunting once the snow melts and the animals return for summer. Or maybe the desert has more surprises in store.

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