Friday, August 5, 2011

commensals in the making

An interesting story about hyraxes and their invasion of villages in the Galilee. They have become major garden pests, but it turns out they aren't attracted to the gardens, per se, but to the piles of boulders that are left over from excavating house foundations. Those boulders create underground caverns similar to those the hyraxes inhabit in the rocky cliffs.

I'm surprised this issue didn't come up before. Natufian pithouses probably created boulder piles, too. But perhaps those boulders were incorporated into the homes, and therefore weren't as likely to attract these animals. On the other hand, I did document a significant increase in hyrax remains in the latest, and most intensive, period of occupation at at PPNB site in the Jordanian desert. I argued that small game was part of a risk-management strategy, but perhaps it was commensalism all along.

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