Saturday, February 13, 2010
Tame and fearless animals
"Tame and fearless animals" -- where would they be? According to a NYTimes scientist-blogger, on the Galapagos Islands, site of so much of Charles Darwin's education on evolution.
Olivia Judson notes that Darwin was surprised to find animals -- marine iguanas, tortoises, finches . . . -- easy to approach and then ride, toss, or even kill. (Now, thankfully, approaches are limited to those with cameras only.)
Judson asks, "So why are the animals so tame?" And she answers, in part, below:
"No one knows for sure. But in general, animals tend to be more tame — less prone to fleeing from people — on islands than they are on continents. In Australia, island wallabies let humans come closer to them than mainland wallabies do; similarly, on an island in the Gulf of California, iguanas allow closer approach than their mainland cousins will tolerate.
"The reason for this is that islands are (usually) safer places to live. Islands are typically home to fewer predators — especially cats and other mammals — than the mainland, so animals that live there are at less risk of becoming somebody’s lunch.
"In a dangerous environment, being a skittish creature can save your life. But in a safe environment, where you are unlikely to be pounced on, such behavior is a costly waste of time and energy. . . ."