What Is Universe 25? The Story of Utopia for Mice

How would heaven on earth look like is the question many have asked since the beginning of humankind. However, only one man managed to answer it. In 1968, ethologist and behavioral researcher John B. Calhoun conducted an experiment that had a terrifying outcome. He created what became widely known as Universe 25.

What is the Universe 25?

Universe 25 is a nickname for artificially produced mice utopia that gave birth to grim predictions about the future of the human race. The scientist created an environment that had plenty of everything mouses needed. The only limitation that existed was in space. The range of living area was the only unchangeable variable. Universe 25 was an enclosure of 2.7 square meters. Walls were 54 inches high. The first 37 inches was constructed so that the rodents could climb while the last 17 were flat which made it unclimbable. There were four pens, 256 living compartments, and 16 burrows that led to food and water supplies.

Their artificial habitat had a capacity of comfortably hosting 3840 mice. In the beginning, there was plenty of space because everything started with only 8 little rodents – four pairs of male and female. The first 104 days John named the strive period.

The Strive Period

The strive period relates to the process of mouses adapting to their new surroundings. This was the phase in which they examined their surroundings, established territories, and started reproducing. What came next was the exploit period.

The Exploit Period

The exploit period was featured by mating. Every 55 days, the population would double. On the 315th day, Universe 25 contained 620 mouses. It is important to note that mouses live for around 2 years. And when a female gets pregnant it takes around 19 to 21 days to give birth. A female mouse can give birth between five and ten litters per year. Each litter usually consists of 5-6 mouse pups. These facts are important to understand that the reproduction was at its highest biological capacities.

Turning Point

From the 315th day on, the rise in population rapidly decreased and started doubling after around every 145 days.

Another interesting fact is that mice, despite plenty of space, crammed together. It eventually led to the breaking of social structure that produced what John called “behavioral sink”. But before we enter that part and reveal the dark ending of an experiment we will elaborate phenomenon that started taking place after the 315th day. There was an abrupt change in the behavior of both males and females.

Despite the abundance of food and space that gave no reason for defending territory, males started to for groups and even randomly attack others. Females started to abandon their young. On some occasions, they would even attack and kill them. Male mice, especially alfas, started to go around and breed or even rape whatever they would stumble upon – male or female. But the most astonishing feature was the appearance of cannibalism. Mouses started to kill and eat one another.

In addition to this madness, mothers began abandoning their babies. And clustering became even more present. Mouses would gather in groups of over 50 inside pens designed to host only 15 of them while dozens of pens nearby would remain empty. As a consequence of everything that was happening a new class of mice emerged. They were called beautiful ones.

Who Were The Beautiful Ones?

Little Mouse Eating

Mouse eating

The term beautiful ones referred to groups of male and female mouses who withdrew themselves from the ground and went living in the upper levels of enclosure. All they did is eat, sleep, and groom themselves. The isolation that allowed them to evade fights allowed their coat to remain way smoother which is why they got their nickname. They had no interest in any social interactions and have even refused to mate. What was notable about those mice is that they had a significantly lower level of stress. On the other hand, mouses that were withdrawn from the other buts remained living on the ground had to endure a great deal of stress due to all attacks that took place. But to make things even more interesting they didn’t defend themselves. Their natural instinct of self-preservation and survival was completely lost.

The Last Brith – Extinction of Universe 25

The last birth in Universe 25 took place on day 600th. From that point on the population started only to reduce. Even when the population got back to a number where it previously flourished, mouses refused to reproduce. As a consequence, a complete extinction ensued in a matter of a few months.

John Calhoun’s Conclusion

John B Calhoun Standing In the Middle of Universe 25

John B. Calhoun Standing In the Middle of Universe 25

Calhoun concluded that the true death of the population started when the social structure suffered its first break. That was on day 315.

Their spirit has died. They are no longer capable of executing the more complex behaviors compatabe with species survival. The species in such settings die. John B. Calhoun

According to Calhoun, overpopulation was to be blamed for everything. In addition to this, John believed that this grim model is what awaits the human race if rapid reproduction is continued. The behavioral sink is the term he used to refer to the consequences of overcrowding.

What Was Wrong With Universe 25?

This is the natural question after acknowledging the stream of events and the ensuing consequences. Results of Calhoun’s later experiments suggested it could be a lack of purpose. Calhoun started encouraging creativity in mice in various ways. This enhanced the feeling of purpose and prevented creative mouses from losing their interest in social relationships and reproduction.

What Is The Fate Of Human Kind?

According to John B. Calhoun, population growth could bring a grim future to humanity. Man as a form of a cultural animal appeared around 40 000 years ago. It is important to distinguish the terms of cultural and biological animals. If we observe pure biology men referred to as homo sapiens first appeared around 200 000 years ago which is how old remain found in Omo national park in Ethiopia are. Cultural animal refers to human beings in the context of living beings capable of culture development and higher developing of ideas as well as their accomplishing. For the first doubling of population, it took around 20 000 years. It means that 20 000 years ago the human population reached two million. The next doubling took place after ten thousand years. And the next was in five. It is easy to spot the pattern of dividing the time required to double the number of human beings.

In the time of interviewing professor Calhoun(around 1970), the human population was in the 10th doubling. Professor believed that the 11th doubling might be the final one. According to Calhoun’s prediction men are going to reach the critical point in the next century. At that point, there will be around 9 billion people on earth. The exact time this could take place is before or, in the latest scenario, around 2045.

The critical point is going to leave us three choices. One is to keep reproducing. But that eventually has to end. Another is to maintain the population at a certain level. That would mean stagnation and survival. We could survive for millions of years that way. And the third scenario, leading to the fate that happened to mice, is the rapid decrease in reproduction that will lead to extinction.

The choice that will be made on a critical point can be dictated through a system of values. The main problem with the rapid increase in population is that overcrowding leads to a break in social functions. The break then leads to disappearance or incapability to implement basic actions such as reproduction which eventually leads to the extinction of a whole species. 

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