Saturday, November 10, 2007
When Animals Evolve On Islands, Size Doesn't Matter
A theory explaining the evolution of giant rodents, miniature elephants, and even miniature humans on islands has been called into questions by new research.
The new study refutes the 'island rule' which says that in island environments small mammals such as rodents tend to evolve to be larger, and large mammals such as elephants tend to evolve to be smaller, with the original size of the species being the key determining factor in these changes.
The new research findings suggest that the tendency to either evolve larger or smaller on islands varies from one group of species to another, irrespective of original size. The research team, from Imperial College London, suspect instead that a number of external factors, including the physical environment of the particular island, the availability of prey, the presence of predators and the presence of competing species all play a role in determining the size evolution of island mammals.