Shrunken Life: Discourses of the Cryptic and the Miniature in Madagascar
Keywords:extinction, cryptic species, miniature species, climate change, island rule, DNA barcoding, Madagascar
As scientists scour remnant habitats and “unmask” cryptic species with DNA barcoding, a boom of species discovery has enchanted the world. In Madagascar, recent discoveries of previously unknown miniature frogs, chameleons, and lemurs often photographed on human fingers or cradled in hands, have captured the public imagination. In this imagery of scale, the giant finger conveys the outsized impact of humanity on Earth, or points to what Susan Stewart (1996, p. 74) calls “a physical world of disorder and disproportion.” Although the phenomenon of insular gigantism and dwarfism has shaped scientific discourses of evolution and extinction since the nineteenth century, recent reportage on “new” miniature and cryptic species reflects a sensibility beyond wistful nostalgia for creatures past. Species miniaturism evolves out of habitat loss, and living minifauna encapsulate the contraction of existential time, all the more pronounced by the effects of climate change. Photographs of cryptic minifauna therefore compel us to reflect on the whole of our losses, while they fuel the impulse to restock the “library of life” at micro-scale.
Barnett, B. (1937). Kangaroos and Chameleons. The Field, February 27, 470.
Barnosky, A.D., Matzke, N., Tomiya, S., Wogan, G.O.U., Swartz, B., Quental, T.B., Marshall, C., McGuire, J.L., Lindsey, E.L., Maguire, K.C., Mersey, B., & Ferrer, E.A. (2011). Has the Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinction Already Arrived? Nature 471, 51–57. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature09678 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nature09678
BBC News. (2005). New Lemurs Found in Madagascar. Tuesday, 9 August, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4135670.stm
Brantlinger, P. (2003). Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Extinction of Primitive Races, 1800-1930. Cornell University Press.
Burney, D. A. (1997). Tropical Islands as Paleoecological Laboratories: Gauging the Consequences of Human Arrival. Human Ecology 25(3), 437-457. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1021823610090 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1021823610090
Burney, D. A. & Ramilisonina. (1998). The Kilopilopitsofy, Kidoky, and Bokyboky: Accounts of Strange Animals from Belo-sur-mer, Madagascar, and the Megafaunal ‘Extinction Window.’ American Anthropologist, 100(4), 957-966. https://doi.org/10.1525/aa.19220.127.116.117 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/aa.1918.104.22.1687
Bjærke, M.R. (2021). The sixth extinction: Naming time in a new way. In Kverndokk, K. Bjærke, M.R. & Eriksen, A. (Eds.). Climate Change Temporalities: Explorations in Vernacular, Popular, and Scientific Discourse (pp. 125-140). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003037415-12 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003037415-12
Caddy-Retalic, S. & Lowe, A. (2012). DNA barcoding: a better way to discover species. The Conversation, March 4. https://theconversation.com/dna-barcoding-a-better-way-to-discover-species-4933
Cahill, A.E., Aiello-Lammens, M.E., Fisher-Reid, M.C., Hua, X., Karanewsky, C.J., Ryu, H.Y., Sbeglia, G.C., Spagnola, F., Waldron, J.B., Warsi, O., & Wiens, J.J. (2013). How does climate change cause extinction? Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 280: 20121890. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2012.1890 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2012.1890
Commerson, P. (1791). Account of the Quimos, a race of Pigmies, found in the island of Madagascar. The Literary Magazine and British Review 7: 43-47.
Davis, J. (2020). Only known drawing of extinct giant sloth lemur found in cave.” Natural History Museum, Science News, June 28, https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/news/2020/june/only-known-drawing-of-extinct-giant-sloth-lemur-found-in-cave.html
DelPero, M. (2014). The Red Island and the Seven Dwarfs: Body Size Reduction in Cheirogaleidae. Journal of Biogeography, 41(10), 1833-1847. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.12327 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.12327
Donahue, M. Z. (2019). New staple-size frog is one of the tiniest ever discovered. National Geographic, March 27.
Dubois, R.P.H.M. (1926). Les origines des Malgaches. Anthropos 21 (1/2), 72-126. Published by: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft.
Dunham, A.E., Erhart M.E., & Wright, P.C. (2011). Global climate cycles and cyclones: consequences for rainfall patterns and lemur reproduction in southeastern Madagascar. Global Change Biology 17, 219–227. https://doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02205.x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02205.x
Flacourt, E. de (1661). Histoire de la Grande Ile Madagascar. Paris: Nicolas Oudot. Digital publication: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k1047463.image.f2.
Forsberg, L. (2015). Nature’s Invisibilia: The Victorian microscope and the miniature fairy. Victorian Studies 57(4): 638-666. https://doi.org/10.2979/victorianstudies.57.4.03 DOI: https://doi.org/10.2979/victorianstudies.57.4.03
Glaw, F., Köhler, J., Townsend, T.M., Vences, M. (2012). Rivaling the World's Smallest Reptiles: Discovery of miniaturized and microendemic new species of leaf chameleons (Brookesia) from Northern Madagascar. PLoS ONE 7(2): e31314. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0031314 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0031314
Glaw, F., Köhler, J., Hawlitschek, O., Ratsoavina, F.M., Rakotoarison, AA., Scherz, M. & Vences, M. (2021). Extreme miniaturization of a new amniote vertebrate and insights into the evolution of genital size in chameleons. Scientific Reports 11, (2522), https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-80955-1 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-80955-1
Greenfield, P. (2020). Counting the Species: How DNA barcoding is rewriting the Book of Life. The Guardian, October 7. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/07/counting-the-species-how-dna-barcoding-is-rewriting-the-book-of-life-aoe
Guardian, The. (2021). Seed-sized chameleon found in Madagascar may be world's tiniest reptile. February 5. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/feb/05/seed-sized-chameleon-madagascar-world-tiniest-reptile.
Hannah, L., Dave, R., Lowry, P. P., Andelman, S., Andrianarisata, M., Andriamaro, L., Cameron, A., Hijmans, R., Kremen, C., Mackinnon, J., Randrianasolo, H. H., Andriambololonera, S., Razafimpahanana, A., Randriamahazo, H., Randrianarisoa, J., Razafinjatovo, P., Raxworthy, C., Schatz, G. E., Tadross, M., & Wilmé, L. (2008). Climate change adaptation for conservation in Madagascar. Biology letters, 4(5), 590–594. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2008.0270 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2008.0270
Kverndokk, K. & Eriksen, A. (2021.) Climate change temporalities Narratives, genres, and tropes. In Kverndokk, K. Bjærke, M.R. & Eriksen, A. (Eds.). Climate Change Temporalities: Explorations in Vernacular, Popular, and Scientific Discourse (pp. 3-14). Routledge https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003037415 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003037415-2
Lanting, F. (1990). Madagascar: World Out of Time. Photographs by Frans Lanting. Introduction by Gerald Durrell; Essays by Allison Jolly and John Mack. The University of Michigan. Aperture; First Edition.
Lomolino, M. V. (2005). Body size evolution in insular vertebrates: generality of the island rule. Journal of Biogeography, 32, 1683-1699. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2699.2005.01314.x
Lomolino, M. V., Vaan der Greer, A. A., Lyras, G. A.; Palombo, M. R., Sax, D.F., & Rozzi, R. (2013). Of mice and mammoths: Generality and antiquity of the island rule. Journal of Biogeography, 40(8), 1427-1439. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.12096 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.12096
Lorimer, Ja. 2015: Wildlife in the Anthropocene: Conservation After Nature. University of Minnesota Press. https://doi.org/10.5749/minnesota/9780816681075.001.0001 DOI: https://doi.org/10.5749/minnesota/9780816681075.001.0001
Meiri, S., Bauer, A.M., Allison, A., Castro-Herrera, F., Chirio, L., Colli, G., Das, I., Doan, T., Glaw, F., Grismer, L.L., Hoogmoed, M., Kraus, F., LeBreton, M., Meirte, D., Nagy, Z.T., Noguiera, C.C., Oliver, P., Pauwels, O.S.G., Pincheira-Donoso, D., Shea, G., Sindaco, R., Tallowin, O.J.S., Torres-Carvajal, O., Trape, J-F., Uetz, P., Wagner, P., Wang, Y., Ziegler, T., & Roll, U. (2018). Extinct, obscure or imaginary: The lizard species with the smallest ranges. Diversity and Distributions, 24, 262–273. https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.12678 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.12678
Mercier, J-L, & Wilmé, L. (2013). The Eco-Geo-Clim model: Explaining Madagascar’s endemism. Madagascar Conservation & Development, 8(2), 63-68. https://doi.org/10.4314/mcd.v8i2.3 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4314/mcd.v8i2.3
Mongabay. (2005). Two tiny lemur species discovered in Madagascar. August 9. https://news.mongabay.com/2005/08/two-tiny-lemur-species-discovered-in-madagascar/
Morel, J-P. (2012). Philibert Commerson à Madagascar et à Bourbon.” Copie sur pierre-poivre.fr, décembre 2012, 16 pp.
Oxford English Dictionary. https://www-oed- com.proxy.libraries.rutgers.edu/view/Entry/45358?redirectedFrom=cryptic#eid
Raxworthy, C.J, Pearson, R.G, Rabibisoa, N., Rakotondrazafy, A.M, Ramanamanjato, J-B., Raselimanana, A.P., Wu, S., Nussbaum, R.A., & Stone, D.A. (2008). Extinction vulnerability of tropical montane endemism from warming and upslope displacement: a preliminary appraisal for the highest massif in Madagascar. Global Change Biology, 14 (8), 1703-1720. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2486.2008.01596.x DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2486.2008.01596.x
Scherz, M.D., Hutter, C.R., Rakotoarison, A., Riemann, J.C., Rödel, M-O, Ndriantsoa, S.H., et al. (2019). Morphological and ecological convergence at the lower size limit for vertebrates highlighted by five new miniaturised microhylid frog species from three different Madagascan genera. PLoS ONE 14(3): e0213314. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0213314 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0213314
Sodikoff, G.M. (2013). The Time of Living Dead Species: Extinction Debt and Futurity in Madagascar. In P. Y. Paik & M. Wiesner-Hanks (Eds.) Debt: Ethics, the Environment, and the Economy (pp. 140-163). 21st Century Studies Series. Indiana University Press.
Stewart, S. (1993). On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822378563 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9780822378563
Swift, J. (1920 ). Gulliver’s Travels. Edited with an Introduction by Ernest Bernbaum. Harcourt, Brace and Company.
Tadross, M., Randriamarolaza, L., Rabefitia, Z. & Zheng, K. Y. (2008). Climate change in Madagascar; recent past and future, pp. 18. Washington, DC: World Bank.
Transforming the World. (n.d.). The Island Rule: How Insular Populations Become Dwarfs and Giants. Digital publication. http://whitenies.blogspot.com/2015/10/the-island-rule-how-insular-populations.html. Accessed June 10, 2021.
Van den Bos, K.H.W., Altantzis, T., De Backer, A., Van Aert, S., & Bals, S. (2018). Recent breakthroughs in scanning transmission electron microscopy of small species. Advances in Physics: X, (3)1, 815-833. https://doi.org/10.1080/23746149.2018.1480420 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/23746149.2018.1480420
Vieilledent, G., Gardi, O., Grinand, C., Burren, C., Andriamanjato, M., Camara, C., Gardner, C.J., Glass, L., Andriambolantsoa, R., Ratsimba, H.R., Gond, V., & Rakotoarijaona, J-R. (2016). Bioclimatic envelope models predict a decrease in tropical forest carbon stocks with climate change in Madagascar. Journal of Ecology, 104, 703–715. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2745.12548 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2745.12548
Wright P.C. (2006). Considering climate change effects in lemur ecology and conservation. In Gould, L. & Sauther, M.L. (Eds.) Lemurs: Ecology and Adaptation, pp. 387–404. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-34586-4_18 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-34586-4_18
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2021 CC-BY
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who submit articles to this journal agree to the following terms:
1. Authors are responsible for ensuring that any material that has influenced the research or writing has been properly cited and credited both in the text and in the Reference List (Bibliography). Contributors are responsible for gaining copyright clearance on figures, photographs or lengthy quotes used in their manuscript that have been published elsewhere.
2. Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) License that allows others to share and adapt the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
3. Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository, or publish it in a book), with proper acknowledgement of the work's initial publication in this journal.
4. Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (see The Effect of Open Access or The Open Access Citation Advantage). Where authors include such a work in an institutional repository or on their website (i.e., a copy of a work which has been published in eTropic, or a pre-print or post-print version of that work), we request that they include a statement that acknowledges the eTropic publication including the name of the journal, the volume number and a web-link to the journal item.
5. Authors should be aware that the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) License permits readers to share (copy and redistribute the work in any medium or format) and adapt (remix, transform, and build upon the work) for any purpose, even commercially, provided they also give appropriate credit to the work, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. They may do these things in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests you or your publisher endorses their use.