“Yeah my kids back home do that all the time,” the human on the screen was saying with a smile. “The girls do it more than the boys though.”
“As you can see the behavior is near universal in the species,” the behavioral anthropologist explained as he paused the video. “However when asked to explain it-” he waved his manipulators to indicate the screen as it resumed playing.
“Why?” The human asked as its face wrinkled with that bizarre, fleshy movement that defined all of the endoskeleton species. “I don’t know, it’s fun I guess?”
“Fun,” Quilx’tch said. “The universal catch-answer humans have for all questions beginning in why.”
“Indeed,” the behavioral anthropologist agreed. “However I have a working theory that explains it!”
Quilx’tch fought the urge to tighten his legs under him in irritation. Why was he here? He was here to offer social support to his fellow anthropologist. The same he expected to receive when he went on about nutrients levels in chicken soup, so he gamely focused on graphs and data his coworker displayed.
“You have a theory that explains the human behavior of skipping?” Quilx’tch asked politely.
The behavioral anthropologist clicked eagerly and summoned two more screens. Quilx’tch watched as the previous screen of one of the younger soldiers on the base moving across the exercise ground. He was neither walking nor running. Instead he was using every alternating bipedal step to thrust himself up against the pull of the gravity well.
“Skipping must require a lot of calories,” Quilx’tch observed.
“A massive expenditure,” his coworker agreed. “And here is a very similar behavior that the humans recorded in a wild and domestic animals.”
Quilx’tch ran his primary eyes over the displays.
“But those are quadrupeds,” Quilx’tch pointed out. “And have completely different diets. They rely on-“
“Yes, yes!” The behavioral anthropologist waved a hand dismissively. “But the differences in structure only serve to display the similarity in behavior!”
Quilx’tch bristled in shock at the abrupt dismissal. The rudeness was, well it was human, Quilx’tch remembered with a release of tension. His coworker had been among the humans the longest. It was only logical that he had picked up a few of their quirks. Quilx’tch refocused on the screens.
“All three behaviors involve needlessly thrusting up against the central gravity well,” Quilx’tch summarized. He gave a short hop to demonstrate.
“Yes!” his coworker enthused. “And the humans have already described and explained the behavior in other species but!” He held up his primary manipulator. “They have not thought to apply it to themselves!”
Quilx’tch kept his primary eyes on the behavioral anthropologist but snuck a pair of legs under his abdomen to begin lightly tapping on the keyboard he projected there. He found himself once more grateful for learning to divide his attention so well in academy.
“And then I discovered the age gap!” his coworker went on eagerly. “Human young display the behavior near constantly but adults only display it when they are alone or when they think there is a minimal chance of being observed by other species!”
Quilx’tch gave an absent click of confirmation as the other went on.
“And then the mass division is quite clear among adult humans. With and inverse correlation between mass and frequency of skipping.”
The behavioral anthropologist paused and looked eagerly at Quilx’tch, this time waiting the appropriate time for a response. Quilx’tch stretched a bit and then settled down again.
“I am a nutritional,” he finally said. “I can draw no conclusions from your most excellent research data my friend.”
“It is pronking!” the behavioral anthropologist said with a happy titter. “The humans pronk just as much as the wild quadrupeds.”
“So your theory is that humans skip to convince predators that the caloric expenditure of catching them would exceed the caloric gain of eating them?” Quilx’tch asked.
“Indeed!” his coworker said brightly.
“I see,” Quilx’tch said, tapping a manipulator against the floor thoughtfully. “That does seem logical.”
His coworker took that as encouragement to go on and Quilx’tch slipped his legs back under his abdomen with a vexed click of his mandibles. He had reports to get done.