Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

When Animals Evolve On Islands, Size Doesn't Matter

Date:
November 8, 2007
Source:
Imperial College London
Summary:
A theory explaining the evolution of giant rodents, miniature elephants, and even miniature humans on islands has been called into question 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 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.
Credit: iStockphoto/Andy Diamond

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.

Dr Shai Meiri from the NERC Centre for Population Biology at Imperial College London, lead author on the paper, explains: "If the island rule was correct, then most large mammals living on islands would be smaller than their continental relatives, and most small island mammals would be larger those living on continents. Our large dataset of mammal body sizes shows that this isn't the case: there is evidence that most mammal groups show no tendency to consistently either grow larger or smaller, in contradiction to the island rule."

Dr Meiri, who carried out the work with Professor Andy Purvis and Natalie Cooper from the College's Department of Life Sciences, added: "The island rule suggests that the smallest mammals such as mice will exhibit the most evolutionary growth on islands, whilst the largest mammals like elephants will dwarf the most, with all mammals in between on a sliding-scale.

"Our analyses showed this isn't the case, and the relationship between mammal size and evolutionary size change on islands is not that straightforward. Crucially, when we examined size change in light of the evolutionary relationship between different species, there was no connection between an evolution towards large size and greater degree of dwarfism on islands, or between evolution towards small size and island gigantism."

The research team concluded that although there does appear to be a weak correlation between the size of a mammal and how its size then evolves in an island habitat, this reflects some groups' specific tendencies towards gigantism or dwarfism, and not the general course of evolution. "The course of size evolution is dependent on a complex interplay of many other factors, that have led to the evolution of fascinating miniature and giant species of mammals on islands," concludes Dr Meiri.

This research was published November 7, 2007 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Imperial College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Imperial College London. "When Animals Evolve On Islands, Size Doesn't Matter." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 November 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071107074324.htm>.
Imperial College London. (2007, November 8). When Animals Evolve On Islands, Size Doesn't Matter. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071107074324.htm
Imperial College London. "When Animals Evolve On Islands, Size Doesn't Matter." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071107074324.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-Lift

Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-Lift

AP (July 24, 2014) The U.S. Mint has re-designed the John F. Kennedy half dollar coin to better match the former president's likeness. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: MD Church Built in 1773 Ravaged by Fire

Raw: MD Church Built in 1773 Ravaged by Fire

AP (July 22, 2014) Authorities say a 241-year-old church on the National Register of Historic Places has been ravaged by fire in Maryland. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

AFP (July 19, 2014) As if it weren't enough that the Queen is the Sovereign of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms, she is also the owner of all Britain's unmarked swans. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins