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    You are here:HomeItaly: an Encyclopedia of Quaternary SciencesInsularity

    Insularity

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    InsularityIslands have been regarded by scientists as a living laboratory of evolution, and a prime target for the study of forces influencing evolution and diversification.

    In response to the special characteristics of insular environments, plants and animals often undergo evolutionary changes, which can be observed on islands of varying surface area.

    During the Quaternary, dramatically specialized vertebrates inhabited a number of Mediterranean islands. These fascinating animals, whose ancestors are often difficult to trace or imagine, are miniaturized elephants and hippopotamuses, deer either as large as a dog or larger than a moose, short-legged bovids with stereoscopic vision, giant turtles and lizards, little owls larger than horned owls, rodents and insectivores that changed their size and life behaviour.

    The variety and richness of this fossil record provide fundamental clues to solve the two main issues, attentively scrutinized but still hotly debated: the loss of biodiversity of insular faunas and the peculiar changes undergone by island settlers, above all changes in body size shown by endemic reptiles, birds, and mammals.