Thursday, December 06, 2007

More Pygmies

We discussed before here the interesting phenomenon that often occurs when species of large fauna get trapped on islands. Natural selection in the restricted habitat favors smaller individuals and you end up with a dwarf or pygmy subspecies.

Previously we talked about pygmy mammoths in the California Channel Islands and dwarf water buffalo in the Philippines. Yesterday I saw this piece on dwarf hippopotamuses found on Cyprus. Intriguing to think of hippos that were two and a half feet tall and four feet long.

2 comments:

Neutrino said...

Cuba also had dwarf ground sloths IIRC.

Anonymous said...

How about six-toed contortionist dogs?
http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=743
(...)
Also helpful when getting into and out of small caves is the Lundehund's extraordinary flexibility. The Lundehund's forelegs can bend outwards far enough for the dog to lay flat on its chest, with the legs in an approximation of the human arm position. This kind leg flexibility is unheard of, not just in dogs, but in quadrupeds. The only other four-footed mammal that can match it is the reindeer.

The Lundehund's extraordinary flexibility is not limited to the forelegs. The dog's neck and spine are so flexible that it can lay its head back along its own spine, a position most humans couldn't get into under any circumstances short of a broken neck, let alone most dogs. What exactly is going on with the Lundehund's joints isn't certain, but it seems clear that something unique is happening to allow for such unusual joint mobility.
(...)
This doesn't seem to be a hoax.
http://members.aol.com/puffindog/boromir.html

If 19th Century naturalists had found such a remarkable beast in the Congo or Indonesia everything would have done to preserve it. Instead-since it was from boring Norway-it almost went extinct and all the current animals descend from only five survivors. Because of the inbreeding all the current dogs are afflicted-to one degree or another- with a devastating disorder called Lundehund Syndrome.