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Kong Mirrors Real Evolutionary Paths 185

Posted by Zonk
from the big-tiny-animals dept.
CNN has an article pointing out that, though King Kong may be a little extreme, evolutionary gigantism is not out of the question on remote islands. From the article: "There are many examples of what biologists term 'gigantism' on islands. These include the Komodo dragons, the world's largest lizards which can be 10 feet long or more and weigh up to 500 pounds. Found on a few small Indonesian islands, the Komodo -- a recorded man-eater -- is in many ways as chilling as anything from Jackson's fertile imagination."
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Kong Mirrors Real Evolutionary Paths

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  • Hype time already? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob&hotmail,com> on Monday January 02, 2006 @05:50AM (#14377579) Journal
    "King Kong," which is reigning at the North American box office this holiday season...

    CNN should label these articles as advertisements. There's little science in the story, and certainly nothing new.
    • Agreed. Although, having said that, I was suprised by the new King Kong film. It really does try to do something new with an old film, rather than just watering it down and selling it as a basic adventure or feel-good movie.

      King Kong isn't really about big creatures or evolution, though. It's about how humans are sacrificing nature on the altar of concrete monuments to our own "achievements".

    • Agreed, quite often those type of stories appear at the same time as the release of major movies without any significant news in the science themselves, disgusting really.
    • by KuRa_Scvls (932317)
      You shouldn't blame CNN. You should blame the society which has now grown into short attention spanned pleasure seekers, and the journalists, who doesn't know any other methods to grab the attention of the audience, who knows what they want.
      • by Tanktalus (794810) on Monday January 02, 2006 @11:23AM (#14378524) Journal

        Most readers probably only got as far as "You shouldn't blame CNN" before sighing with relief (that CNN isn't a bad guy) and moving on to the next post. You need to get your point across in succinct sound bites.

        "CNN good. Society Bad."

      • by maxpublic (450413)
        You should blame the society which has now grown into short attention spanned pleasure seekers

        That "society" you talk about happens to include you. Unless somehow you've been magically exempted from the ranks of short-attention-spanned pleasure seekers.

        Max
    • No kidding. In case anybody hasn't noticed...the new trend in PR is to try to tie whatever you're doing to something scientific. Then you can "borrow" some of their credibility and steal some of their press. Although most of the time there is no real science in these articles...they're just fluff pieces which mention whatever is being promoted. What's funny (and makes them even more annoying) is how transparent they are.

    • Here's how the Kong movie hype gets exploited on the web:

      Slashdot: "Kong Mirrors Real Evolutionary Paths"

      Something Awful: "After watching King Kong, how many times did you cut yourself?"

      Digg: "Kong-inspired PC Case Mod! OMFG!!"

      Craigslist: "I will have sex with you for two tickets to King Kong premier."

      eBay: "Folding table used by catering company on Kong movie set to be auctioned off starting at US$50,000"

      Fark: "Man sues waffle house for refusing service to him while dressed as a giant ape. Your dog wants t
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 02, 2006 @05:50AM (#14377581)
    Uhhh, I hate to nitpick, but which creatures did Jackson imagine in this remake?

    Not to say that the man isn't creative or imaginative, but he certainly didn't invent King Kong...or the brachiosaurus or the T-Rex or the Velociraptor or or or....
    • the penis-worms?
  • Jackson's fertile imagination

    HAH! Let's see now... The Lord of the Rings and King Kong. Yeah, real original.

    While I loved LOTR (haven't seen Kong), let's call a spade a spade, shall we?

    • Peter Jackson is certainly capable of originality, ever seen Bad Taste for example? (sick... yes, original... definately) I think if Jackson has been unoriginal then it's a malaise of the entire film industry. Don't forget that in 1999 (or was it 2000) they made Godzilla, an American remake of an American remix of a Japanese movie. The Matrix, a movie praised by many for originality was made by directors/writers who were perfectly aware that there was nothing original about the "unique" style of the movi
      • If your criteria for "originality" stipulates that no external influence or inspiration from other forms of media is allowed then there has never been and never will be an original movie.

    • HAH! Let's see now... The Lord of the Rings and King Kong. Yeah, real original.

      Don't know about Kong, but LotR is actually fairly different from the book. It was by many considered to be "unfilmable" and indeed, many parts were cut (Tom Bombadil), changed & added (helm's deep, Galadriel, gollum's demise, sam turning back), transplanted (saruman's defeat, descripion of gray havens), reshuffled (entire timeline of second and third book) and so on.

      Not only do I think a lot of originality went into the film
  • by LarsWestergren (9033) on Monday January 02, 2006 @05:52AM (#14377585) Homepage Journal
    If anyone should get the credits for inventing King Kong, shouldn't it be Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace [imdb.com]? Not to mention previous works by Jules Verne and others...
  • by baryon351 (626717) on Monday January 02, 2006 @05:52AM (#14377586)
    One point in the article seems incorrect to me.

    The house mice -- believed to have made their way to Gough decades ago on sealing and whaling ships -- have evolved to about three times their normal size.

    I have raised a couple of generations of house mice from a captured pair at my parent's place, and while that original pair were the same size as any other house mouse, about an inch and a half from nose to the base of their tail, their offspring raised in my tank and fed well (ok, overfed :) were every bit as big as fancy mice, four inches or more long from nose to tail base. Going by volume they were well over three times the size of their parents, probably closer to 5. All it took was a regular diet of pet mouse grains, crickets and burger mince.

    They were certainly fatter, but also MUCH larger at a base level.
  • Hollywood is an island unto itself. Where the flops get bigger and bigger while quality entertainment gets smaller and smaller. This is why some of the better movies are coming from New Zealand. I guess there are no intelligent designers among the Hollywood beancounters to save the day.
    • This is why Hollywood is so afraid of Independent Movie Studios.

      First of all, they can't control them because most Inde studios are in another country. Second, there are no laws preventing Inde studios from making films. And third, Hollywood studios don't usually get to share in the profits of a Inde film that makes it big until the time to distribute it on DVD comes along.

      Why do you think it took so long for Inde films finally get recognition in the Oscars?
  • by JanneM (7445) on Monday January 02, 2006 @05:57AM (#14377599) Homepage
    Corante had a intersting piece on the origins of reptile venoms last fall:

    http://www.corante.com/loom/archives/2005/11/21/wh ich_came_first_the_snake_or_the_venom.php/ [corante.com]

    My choice quote - at the very end, and the only tenuous link to the present subject:

    And if you do happen to get bit by a Komodo dragon, you'll be able to be distracted from the effects of its venom by the fact that your arm is missing.
    • Komodo dragons are not, AFAIK, venomous. When they eat, some of the meat sticks in their teeth and rots, creating a very deadly batch of bacteria. The dragons are very fast at short distances but not good distance runners...they will often strike a prey once and let the bacteria finish it off, since they cannot keep up with larger animals like deer. I know that some of the Komodo dragons in captivity in the US are being studied to figure out why the sceptic bacteria does not kill them, as well.
  • by Anakron (899671) on Monday January 02, 2006 @05:58AM (#14377603)
    Content free article (or has that already been proposed?)
    Being the cool dudes we are, let's shorten that to CFA. There's nothing even mildly interesting in the linked article. It reads like an advertisement for King Kong.
    • There's nothing even mildly interesting in the linked article. It reads like an advertisement for King Kong.

      There are an awful lot of "articles" nowadays that happen to coincide with a movie or DVD release. :( It's reassuring that I'm not the only one who has noticed this.
  • by inflex (123318) on Monday January 02, 2006 @06:04AM (#14377613) Homepage Journal
    Over here (Australia) it seems very much to have flopped. I myself haven't even the slightest inclination of going to see it - did they stuff up the marketing here or is it just a dead movie?
  • Fluff piece (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ljhiller (40044) on Monday January 02, 2006 @06:07AM (#14377621)
    This reads like a story invented in a Reuters reporter's head, with out-of-context quotes from scientists to support his clever idea. Anybody that followed the homo floresiensis story knows that large mammals tend to become dwarves on islands. [channel4.com]
  • Kong's a remake. The LOTR trilogy were books first. He may have a talent for visualizing but these are NOT his stories.
    • The parts of the LoTR movie script that he had Fran write are original. Fran didn't seem to care for the books- she talks a lot in the DVD commentary about her improvements on Tolkien's story to "give the audience something to care about". Usually during those scenes everyone hates.

      Fran has writing credits in Kong, which is harder to mess up since there is no canonical form of the story for her to deviate from. I haven't seen it but I'm guessing the gorilla-heroine romance gets developed to hell in this ver
      • Wouldn't surprise me. :|

        Liv Tyler and ELVES AT HELMS DEEP just totally make my nuts SCREAM in agony. Nevermind the original Tolkein incongruity of Teh Undead Army - I can almost stomach that, but man. Liv and the overdone, nuked-to-DEATH sequence of over-endings put me off. Probably because I had to pee. :P

        I've seen some of the commentary on a couple of the movies - a friend of mine STILL tents his fucking khakis at the mention of anything even related to LOTR - and from what I've seen, I completely agre
  • Gigantism in People (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mr.henry (618818) on Monday January 02, 2006 @06:20AM (#14377643) Journal
    This guy [stevequayle.com] has been on Coast to Coast AM a couple times to speak about gigantism in people. He has a pretty extensive website [stevequayle.com]. From the intro:

    Stretch your mind back to childhood. What giants do you remember? Jack and the Beanstalk? Hercules? Paul Bunyan? Goliath? What were you told and what did you read? With the exception of Goliath and an occasional ornery cyclops, legends emphasized their innate goodness, eye-popping feats accomplished with unparalleled strength, victories over the bad guys and all performed by "gentle giants". What if it were all a lie? What if the truth were something much MUCH more sinister?

    • Sad... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kripkenstein (913150)
      +3 Interesting? I guess pseudoscience is always more interesting than science, isn't it.
    • by Decaff (42676) on Monday January 02, 2006 @07:41AM (#14377800)
      This guy has been on Coast to Coast AM a couple times to speak about gigantism in people. He has a pretty extensive website. From the intro:

      When a website contains a phrase like this:

      "I have invested over 30 years researching the vast history of giants. It has, for the most part, been kept from the public. Proof of giants' existence - their skeletal remains - has been quickly secreted away in obscure museums, when not destroyed."

      You know it is not worth reading. Yet more pseudoscience combined with conspiracy theories...... how boring.
      • You know it is not worth reading. Yet more pseudoscience combined with conspiracy theories...... how boring.

        imho you're reading it all wrong. This:

        "I have invested over 30 years researching the vast history of giants."

        is some funny stuff :-)
      • When a website contains a phrase like this:
        [snip]
        You know it is not worth reading. Yet more pseudoscience combined with conspiracy theories...... how boring.


        Usually you can just stop at: "This guy has been on Coast to Coast AM"
    • Oh yes, we should take Steve Quayle seriously [stevequayle.com]. Heh [stevequayle.com].
  • The hippopotamus is one of the most dangerous of wild animals...

     
  • Yup... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by manavendra (688020)
    ...the new human species, Homo floriensis, observes quite the opposite of the evolutionary path - standing at under 1meter tall

    What's more, it is thought they spent most of their time in trees :

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/10/10 27_041027_homo_floresiensis.html [nationalgeographic.com]
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3948165.stm [bbc.co.uk]
    • "...observes quite the opposite..."

      Not really. Both articles (and others) indicate normal mammalian trends would be shrinking. The only 'problem' is the lack of precursor H.erectus fossils. This is because they haven't been found yet or because H.floriensis boated it. If the latter, they still came from other islands to this one.
  • Gigantism (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Solokron (198043) on Monday January 02, 2006 @06:29AM (#14377663)
    Coconut crabs (Birgus Latro) are pretty huge. They co-exist only with birds that are non-threatening on small tropical islands. It is probably the largest terrestrial arthropod in the world. http://www.arkive.org/species/GES/invertebrates_te rrestrial_and_freshwater/Birgus_latro/ [arkive.org]
  • ... I'm wondering when critics will finally realise that PJ's Kong is a really bad movie.

    Yeah yeah, I get it, he was creating a modern action movie as a sort of homage to the old B movies he loved as a child. Someone should've told him that modern movie goers are a little more sceptical about "indestructible lead actors" than they were 50 years ago.

    They also should've pointed out that end-to-end action is all great fun, unless it runs for 60 minutes more than most people can stomach, featuring gun FX circa
  • I remember seeing some scientist on TV explain why giant ants the size of buildings would never work because living things just do not scale like that. When it gets too large the structure would not support it. Would the same apply to an ape? Common sense makes me think as long as everything enlarges evenly a creature could become infinitely huge. Someone correct me on this because I've never understood the logic of it.
    • Re:Limit on size? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Khuffie (818093)
      Not necessarily. If you think about it in terms of architecture, it may be easier to understand. Look at your living room or bedroom. The ceiling is probably being supported by the four walls on each side. The room is small enough that the ceiling doesn't require support in the middle. If you scale the room a 100 times, the distance between the main supports (the side walls) would be too large to support the ceiling without additional support, either via poles or other means. I'd guess the same thing would
    • Re:Limit on size? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Mark J Tilford (186) on Monday January 02, 2006 @08:01AM (#14377853)
      The problem is the square/cube ratio. Double all linear dimensions, and volumes / weights go up by a factor of eight; areas only go up by a factor of four. So exactly doubling a creature would double the amount of weight per unit area, and the joints wouldn't be strong enough.
    • yeah, I seem to recall hearing something along these lines in grade/high school. Something like our bones aren't much different than an elephant's and this is the reason they aren't speed demons. They're so big and heavy that even if their muscles were strong enough to make them run as fast as cheetahs or jump as nimbly as lighter animals their bones wouldn't be able to withstand the forces. It's been a couple decades since I was in school and vaguely paying attention to the elephant talk that day, but i
    • I remember from my university biology classes why giant insects are impossible. Insects breathe through breathing pores, the air enters their body through the entire surface of their carapace. Apparently if they get over a certain size the core of their bodies would die of oxygen starvation in the time It takes the air to get into their sustem.

      Now think about big mammals. Imagine the size of the heart that would be needed to pump blood against gravity into King Kong's brain. Imagine the muscles that
      • Almost, but no.

        "...the air enters their body through the entire surface of their carapace..."
        They have spiracles. Tubes running around similar to your veins. The air can be pumped through these by rudimentary bellows, but it's basically passive.

        "Gravity would collapse lungs over a certain size."
        True, but not Kong's. Brachiosaurus was much bigger.

        "... I would hazard that the size of the biggest dinosaurs that did exist was probably the size of the biggest that could exist."
        Maybe. But, they
      • > Now think about big mammals. Imagine the size of the heart that would be needed to pump blood against gravity into King Kong's brain. Imagine the muscles that would be needed to force enough air into the lungs. Gravity would collapse lungs over a certain size.

        There are also issues of proportion. If you scale a creature up, mass goes up as the cube of the linear size, but the cross section of the leg bones goes up only as the square of the linear size. There's no way an ape could grow to that size and s
        • If you scale a creature up, mass goes up as the cube of the linear size, but the cross section of the leg bones goes up only as the square of the linear size. There's no way an ape could grow to that size and still be shaped like an ape.

          Galileo wrote about this more than three and a half centuries ago in Discorsi and sketched a nice illustration [kennesaw.edu] comparing femurs from different animals of different sizes. In his illustration, the longer femur was about 2.5 times longer but about 10 times wider. As S.J. Gou

    • As other posters have noted, when the animal size goes up 2X, volumes increase by 8X while areas only increase 4X. While this causes structural difficulties and joint problems, etc., the most fundamental problem is heat. If a warm-blooded animal gets too big, it will cook itself on the inside just by virtue of the fact that the surface area to volume ratio is insufficient to allow heat to escape. You'd have gorilla au jus.
  • Foster's Rule (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cyberllama (113628) on Monday January 02, 2006 @07:45AM (#14377818)
    If anyone's interested, the principal described in the article is a special case of something called Foster's rule -- which you can google if interested.

    In my opinion, more interesting than the giant species are pgymy species also created by the same effect. Pygmy Mammoths likely survived far longer than their gigantic counterparts before going extinct, as there is evidence of them being alive as recently as 5000 years ago on a few select islands. In fact, if I recall correctly, there is an egyptian painting which many suggest appears to be the pharoah or some lesser ruler recieving one as a gift. My details on this are a bit sketchy, so those genuinely interested should take their queries to google . . .

    Some of you may also remember the somewhat controversial discovery of a species of pygmy hominid described as "hobbit-like" that was discussed on Slashdot about a year back -- those fossils were also from a rather isolated island . . .
    • "...the principal described in the article is a special case of something called Foster's rule..."

      Jackson's films are best viewed under the influence of Fosters?

    • If anyone's interested, the principal described in the article is a special case of something called Foster's rule

      Is Foster the head of the PR company that has minions of underlings invading all media with King Kong marketing propaganda?
  • The real source (Score:4, Informative)

    by illtron (722358) on Monday January 02, 2006 @08:07AM (#14377860) Homepage Journal
    I love how nobody at Slashdot seems to understand sourcing an article.

    CNN has an article ------------ No. Nope. Wrong.

    CNN is running an article. ------------ YES!

    CNN is running a Reuters article. Learn to understand the god damn difference. This article is running on dozens of other sites out there, yet you just gave CNN credit for it. If I were one of these AP, Reuters, AFP, UPI, or [insert wire service here] writers, I'd be annoyed when nobody could figure out how to properly attribute my work.
    • Re:The real source (Score:2, Informative)

      by mabinogi (74033)
      "CNN has an article" does not actually say anything about the source - all it says is that they have an article they have the rights to publish, which they do.

      If the post had said "CNN have written an article" then it would be wrong, but there's nothing wrong with saying they have it.
  • I don't care, as long as it's not three bloody hours long.

    ... in many ways as chilling as anything from Jackson's fertile imagination.

    Okay, I have never seen the original King Kong. However, from what I understand, much of Jackson's Kong followed the original, so this wasn't so much a product of his "imagination" as his self-indulgence. Can we please stop fellating this guy now? If his films were half as long as they are they might be decent, but making them overly long with a bunch of FX doesn't automa
  • just as some islands have created giants, other islands have shown a trend to producing pygmies, particularly in the elephant family (mammoths found off the coast of north america) and in the hominids (modern pygmies and homo floresiensis).

  • Straight from IMDB.
    King Kong (1933)

    Writing credits: Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace [unl.edu]

    Not Peter Jackson! Give credit where credit is due.
  • >>These include the Komodo dragons, the world's largest >>lizards which can be 10 feet long or more and weigh up >>to 500 pounds.

    Isn't the crocodile the world's largest lizard?

    http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-38416 [britannica.com]

    The crocodiles are the largest and the heaviest of present-day reptiles. In former times the Nile crocodile (Crocodilus niloticus) and the estuarine crocodile (Crocodilus porosus) attained a length of almost nine metres (about 30 feet), but today, specimens rarely excee

    • Isn't the crocodile the world's largest lizard?

      No, crocodile != lizard. Comparing crocodiles and lizards would be something like comparing dogs and monkeys. They belong to an entirely different order.

      Crocodiles are from the order Crocodilia, lizards are from the order Squamata (which includes snakes).
    • What about whales? (Score:3, Informative)

      by nwbvt (768631)
      Blue whales are even bigger than crocodiles, but that doesn't make them the world's largest lizard either. This is because for most people an important requirement for being the world's largest lizard is being a lizard, and neither the blue whale nor the crocodile are lizards.
  • "is in many ways as chilling as anything from Jackson's fertile imagination." "

    WHAT fertile imagination? AFAIK he hasn't done anything original.
  • by TrevorB (57780) on Monday January 02, 2006 @01:16PM (#14379155) Homepage
    I was listening to CBC Radio One yesterday morning to a discussion of the original 1930's King Kong movie, and it was mentioned that an original inspiriation for the movie was when a giant Komodo Dragon was brought to New York and died soon thereafter.

    Let's see if I can find a reference for this. Ah, here we go... [newswise.com]

    "Elements of the 1933 Kong movie are based on the 1926 real-life expedition of William Douglas Burden, a trustee of the American Museum of Natural History," says Mitman, an expert on how animals are portrayed in popular culture.

    "Burden traveled to Indonesia to film and capture the Komodo dragon, which he thought was the closest living relative of dinosaurs," he says. "When Burden brought back two live Komodo specimens and housed them in captivity in the Bronx Zoo, they died. Meridan Cooper, producer of the 1933 film version of Kong, wrote at the time, 'I immediately thought of doing the same thing with a giant gorilla.'"

    The same correspondence indicates that Burden attributed the Komodo dragon's death to civilization. "This is why Cooper chose the Empire State Building and modern airplanes to kill off Kong. They were fitting symbols of civilization and the machine age that many feared were destroying nature," Mitman says.
    He adds that the film's enduring appeal (the current one adds to the 1976 version and the 1933 classic original) might be linked to the restorative properties of an unspoiled, natural landscape.
  • Hasn't King Kong been overhyped enough? Does Slashdot have to stoop so low that these viral marketing diseases have to infiltrate this site? Please, enough with the Kong references already. What's next? Kong condoms? Jack Black appearing on the Muscular Distrophy Telethon in an ape suit? Giant monkey week on the Discovery Channel? Is Orange County Choppers going to build a hairy ape-themed bike for POWs from Kong island? Please give us a fucking break with the Kong shit!
  • though King Kong may be a little extreme...

    You mean like the giant man eating penises with teeth? The endless cascade of falling brontosaurs I could handle. Jack Black's horrible acting I could handle. But Andy Serkis getting eaten by big dicks with teeth was too much.
  • So crocodiles are not lizards? African (aka Nile Crocodiles) are friggen huge - up to 16 feet in length.
  • Guns, Germs & Steel (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Monday January 02, 2006 @06:43PM (#14380965) Journal
    I recently reread Guns, Germs & Steel [barnesandnoble.com] by Jared Diamond. In it, he describes the extinction of many large species that grew up on remote islands.

    We're all familiar with the dodo bird which was a fairly large species but there were also appearant extinctions of other large animals in the Polynesian Islands.

    The reason for their extinction is that they grew up without modern man on their islands. Now, animals that live in Africa like the giraffe, wildebeest, hippo, etc were exposed to the evolution of man. Our initial stone weapons didn't kill all the targets but gave them time to adjust genetically and grow wary and eventually instinctively fear humans.

    Those that didn't were killed.

    Once the remote island mega fauna became exposed to humans and their advanced iron or steel weapons, they did not have the time to adjust to fear us. And our weapons rarely didn't kill them ... in most cases, not even leaving a generation to try to adapt to our presence. For this reason, they were quickly killed without fearing us.

    A supposed Kong would invariably never fear humans unless their were a race of Kongs and we adapted our 1920's technology to be able to kill them more efficiently.

    If you haven't read that book, do so.
  • But it is evolutionary out of the question when such monstrosities would clearly violate the square-cube law.
  • There are many examples of what biologists term 'gigantism' on islands.

    There are even more examples of dwarfism on islands because of the low energy environment and relative lack of predators. Pygmy mammoths [nps.gov] are one good example. The recently found hobbits [eurekalert.org] are another.

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