The Stubby Rhino of Iles Glorieuses
If you paid attention at all during middle school courses on geography, ecology or evolution, then you probably know that the massive island nation of Madagascar, off the southeasterly coast of Africa — due to its long isolation and severely limited accessibility from other continents — is home to more unique species than perhaps anywhere else in the world. (For this reason, some ecologists even refer to Madagascar as the ‘eighth continent’.)
Without natural predators and with large ecological ‘niches’, a number of Madagascar’s native species were able to grow to great sizes. Well, a similar — if contrary — effect has taken hold on the very tiny land mass of Iles Glorieuses, a French territory just about 100 miles northwest of Madagascar (and, at about 5 square miles or so, less than one forty-thousandth the area of Madagascar).
The drastically limited available land on the teeny tiny Glorioso Islands has put severe size pressure on its native fauna. Here you see the archipelago’s Stubby Rhino, an odd-toed ungulate that, when full-grown, rises just a wee 16” from the nubby grasslands, weighing in at less than 30 pounds. Similar habitat and range restrictions have also held down the size of the Glorioso Giraffe (standing, at most, 35” tall) and the Island Elephant (52 pounds, tops).
Those same limitations have been perhaps harsher still on the Coastal Komodo (6” in length, with a bite strength similar to nail clippers) and the Gopher le Glorieuses (roughly 43 to the pound, wet).
Wanna get away? I mean, REALLY get away! Can't get much farther than this!
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