ISHPSB-L Archives

February 1999


Options: Use Monospaced Font
Show Text Part by Default
Show All Mail Headers

Message: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Author: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
Chris Young <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Wed, 24 Feb 1999 09:59:35 -0800
text/plain (71 lines)
In response to Paolo Palladino's question about lemmings, the following responses have been received:
From:  Stephen Straker <[log in to unmask]>

On Lemmings, you will want to see a book by my colleague
Dennis Chitty, who studied lemmings and other sorts of populations for many
years.  The title I forget, but it was published not long ago.

Ah! "amazon" has it, and OF COURSE, what else to call it!  --->

Do Lemmings Commit Suicide?: Beautiful Hypotheses and Ugly Facts
by Dennis Chitty
(Our Price: $29.95)
Paperback - 268 pages (May 1996)
Oxford Univ Press; ISBN: 0195097866

From:  Christian Haak <[log in to unmask]>

I recently read in a magazine called Canadian Geographic that Disney
made a movie in the 1950s( I think the title was wonderful wilderness) in
which it was shown how lemmings were indeed jumping off a cliff. The
author of the article however, said that the film crew had caught some
lemmings in the Canadian north and then just threw them off a cliff
somewhere in the states.

I think this is not only telling about how "nature films" are made but
also how entrenched the belief about self-regulation of populations was
at the time. I think the episode is also mentioned in Dennis Chitty's
recent book: Do lemmings commit suicide? : beautiful hypotheses and ugly
facts, 1996. Chitty was a coworker with Charles Elton in the Bureau of
Animal Population in Oxford working on the population dynamics of small
The self regulation of populations has been discussed for ages in ecology
and the debate still goes on (I have literature on that as well if you
are interested but it is pretty specific).
Another issue you are mentioning is whether the supposed self regulation
is connected to natural selection or a form of group selection as Wynne
Edwards seem to say.
The classical argument against that view came from George C. Williams but
it seems that group selection is somehow having a renaissance perhaps due
to the work by David Sloan Wilson and Sober's redefinition of group
selection. An article by Sloan Wilson is reprinted in Sober's "Conceptual
issues in evolutionary biology".

I hope that helps

Christian Haak
Dalhousie University
Halifax, Nova Scotia

From:  "William Kimler" <[log in to unmask]>

You might try Dennis Chitty's scientific autobiography, Do
lemmings commit suicide? : beautiful hypotheses and ugly facts
[New York : Oxford University Press, 1996].

Chitty worked on voles, with important papers in 1954 [Ecology
35:227-37] and 1960  [Canadian J. Zool. 38:99-113].  Charles
Krebs was also very important in rodent population discussions at
the same time, especially with a paper on lemming cycles in 1962
[Science 146:1559-60].

Also, the standard lore around now is that the image of going over
the cliff is from a Disney wildlife movie of the 1950s, and they
staged it.