Can Gerbils Read Maps?

National borders may sometimes seem like arbitrary lines drawn on a map, but a new study from the University of Haifa reveals that those borders mean something to the resident animal populations. The researchers studied rodents, reptiles, and ant lion species on both sides of the Israel-Jordan border and found some interesting differences. Jordan plays host to a larger variety of reptilian species and a smaller funnel-digging ant population, while Israel’s gerbils are more cautious than their friends across the border. The scientists believe the variance is driven by differences in agricultural systems across the two countries. “The boundary is indeed a virtual marking that only appears on the map and is not capable of keeping these species from crossing the border between Israel and Jordan,” says Dr. Uri Shanas, one of the researchers. “But the line does stop humans from crossing it and thereby contains their different impact on nature.” (HT: F.P. Passport) [%comments]

Ian Kemmish

Presumably, in such a trigger happy part of the world, bored border guards also use different species for target practice.


I've noted habitat changes at the boundary lines of counties here in Oregon, so it is logical that there are animal population differences.

For example, along a state road in one county all of the brush is removed from alongside the road, fog lines painted, etc. On the other side of the county line there was brush up to the asphalt, no fog line.

There are bound to be land use zoning differences between jurisdictions, different water supplies, different sewage and rainwater systems. The desirability of the local schools, tax rates and services can lead to greatly different human populations between counties.

For example, perhaps 1-acre homesites are allowed, leading to large private lawns, pastures, ponds, and private greenspaces. Compare that with requiring dense housing by enforcing very small lot sizes, so the only greenspace is public greenspace.