Biogeographical distributions of trickster animals

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Shota Shibasaki , Ryosuke Nakadai , Yo Nakawake


Human language encompasses almost endless potential for meaning and folklore can theoretically incorporate themes beyond time and space. However, actual distributions of the themes are not always universal and their constraints remain unclear. Here, we specifically focused on zoological folklore and aimed to reveal what restricts the distribution of trickster animals in folklore. We applied the biogeographical methodology to 16 taxonomic categories of trickster (517 data) and real (93'090'848 data) animals obtained from large databases. Our analysis revealed that the distribution of trickster animals was restricted by their presence in the vicinity and, more importantly, the presence of their corresponding real animals. Given that the distributions of real animals are restricted by the annual mean temperature and annual precipitation, these climatic conditions indirectly affected the distribution of trickster animals. Our study, applying biogeographical methods to culture, paves the way to a deeper understanding of the interactions between ecology and culture.



Arts and Humanities, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


folklore, species distribution, cultural evolution, Nature's contribution to people


Published: 2023-07-04 01:18

Last Updated: 2024-01-29 15:21

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:

Data and Code Availability Statement:
The original data on folklore is available from Dr. Yuri Berezkin. The codes used in this manuscript is available from