July 8, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Fantasy Island:  Evolutionary Weirdness Does Not Favor Islands

We need “Reality Island,” an evolutionary biologist claims.  Dr. Shai Meiri of Tel Aviv University accuses fellow evolutionists of engaging in “magical thinking” about island habitats: believing that islands are where large animals grow small, small animals grow large, and weird species proliferate.  It’s an illusion, he said in an article on Science Daily.
    Statistics Dr. Meiri and his colleagues gathered show that large, small and weird animals and plants show up everywhere.  “We concluded that the evolution of body sizes is as random with respect to ‘isolation’ as on the rest of the planet,”  he said.  “This means that you can expect to find the same sort of patterns on islands and on the mainland.”
    Why, then, do theories about island dwarfism and exoticism persist?  People tend to see “dragons and dwarfs,” he explained, because they “tend to notice the extremes more if they are found on islands.”  Such stories tend to get better press, too.  We hear about Komodo dragons and Indonesian hobbits, but we overlook the fact that 2,999 islands in the South Pacific have normal-sized humans.  It’s time to get rid of “magical thinking” about islands, he said.  “Fantasies about island habitats and the animals that live there are best left for movies, TV shows, and fantasy novels, he adds.”  See also 11/15/2007, bullet 1. Update 07/25/2010: The biggest rat fossil ever found has been found on the Indonesian island of Flores, according to Live Science.  This is the same island that supposedly made humans evolve smaller into the so-called “hobbits”.  If a theory predicts that some mammals will grow larger while others grow smaller, it may need refinement – or abandonment.

No less than Nature and other leading journals have bought into the “island dwarfism” fantasy.  But if lemurs, iguanas, dinosaurs, humans and blind snakes can cross oceans (01/22/2010, 05/27/2010, 04/03/2010), why should any living thing be imprisoned on Fantasy Island?  Another evolutionary assumption has been tested and found wanting.  Keep up the good work.

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Categories: Darwin and Evolution

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