Biogeographical distributions of trickster animals

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Shota Shibasaki , Ryosuke Nakadai , Yo Nakawake


Environments have facilitated diversification in human cultures, including folklore. Previous studies show that folklore may transmit folk-zoological knowledge about the local environment. However, it remains unclear whether and how environmental factors are related to animal distributions of folklore. By systematically and quantitatively analyzing large databases in both ecology and folkloristics, we compare the distributions of real animals and those of trickster animals, a common folkloristic motif. The result shows that the distribution of trickster animals is restricted by the presence of trickster animals in the neighborhood, and, more importantly, the presence of real animals. Given that the distributions of real animals are restricted by environmental factors, annual mean temperature and precipitation, these environmental factors indirectly restrict the distribution of trickster animals. This study demonstrates the importance of combining perspectives from both human science and ecology to understand nature's contribution to people.



Arts and Humanities, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


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


Published: 2023-03-15 05:28

Last Updated: 2023-03-15 09:28


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

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