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'Magical thinking' about islands is an illusion
Date:7/8/2010

nk due to the constraints of competition on the islands. The researchers found that island isolation per se does not really affect the evolutionary rate, the rates of diversification of species, or the rate at which body size shifts in populations of island and mainland animals.

Reality Island?

Employing their own statistical tools incorporating large data sets that compared body sizes on various islands and on mainland communities, Dr. Meiri and his colleagues found no such tendency for bizarrely-sized animals to develop on islands. "We concluded that the evolution of body sizes is as random with respect to 'isolation' as on the rest of the planet. This means that you can expect to find the same sort of patterns on islands and on the mainland."

Dr. Meiri attributes our widely held misperceptions about "dragons and dwarfs" to the fact that people tend to notice the extremes more if they are found on islands.

The reason for science and mankind's fascination with island communities could boil down to "better press," says Dr. Meiri. If observers investigate human beings on 3,000 different South Pacific islands and all but one of the islands are populated by ordinary-sized people, they will tend to concentrate on the unique case. They forget about the other 2,999 islands in the South Pacific with normal-sized humans, and focus on the unusual.

"I think it's purely a psychological bias," Dr. Meiri concludes. "It's just magical thinking. Nothing more." Fantasies about island habitats and the animals that live there are best left for movies, TV shows, and fantasy novels, he adds.


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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert  

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