Gerbils with borders

Gerbils with borders

A new study from the University of Haifa finds that animals on either side of the Israel-Jordanian border exhibit different characteristics and behaviors:

The first study inspected the reptile population and revealed that the number of reptiles is similar on both sides, but the variety of species in the sandy areas of Jordan is significantly higher than the variety found in the sands of Israel. A second study revealed that Israeli gerbils are more cautious than their Jordanian friends, while a third study showed that the funnel-digging ant lion population in Israel is unmistakably larger than in Jordan.

According to the researchers, the differences between Israel and Jordan are primarily in the higher level of agriculture and the higher number of agricultural farms in Israel as opposed to Jordan’s agriculture that is primarily based on nomadic shepherding and traditional farming. The agricultural fields on the Israeli side of the border not only create a gulf between habitats and thereby cause an increase in the number of species in the region, but they also hail one of the most problematic of intruders in the world: the red fox. On the Jordanian side, the red fox is far less common, so that Jordanian gerbils can allow themselves to be more carefree.

This follows an amazing Wall Street Journal story from two weeks ago describing how red deer still refuse to cross the German-Czech border, 20 years after an electric fence was taken down. The U.S.-Mexico border fence is also proving disruptive to migration patterns several species. 

Arbitrary political constructions though they may be, national borders are becoming natural ones as well.