Animals And Plants Evolve Faster In Cities — With Implications For Humans


Published:

© Rafael Rodrigues Machado, Unsplash

Cities are hubs of commerce, politics, population — and evolution? Yep. Due to human-wrought environmental change, biological evolution moves more quickly in cities than in other areas, according to a new paper published by an international team of researchers in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study, based on analysis of 89 previously published studies, found that for animals and plants, models based on whether urbanization was in play best explained speedy evolution of observable traits such as body size, anatomy, life cycle, behavior and physiology.

“What is the very important implication of this study is that the urban habitat is not simply reducing the number and diversity of species,” says Marina Alberti, lead author of the study and director of the University of Washington’s Urban Ecology Research Laboratory. “We are selectively determining which species can live in cities.”

Alberti gives the example of electrical transmission towers. One study from the United Kingdom found that in soils polluted with zinc due to the towers’ presence, different grasses, such as sheep’s fescue and tufted hairgrass, have evolved different levels of zinc tolerance. However, genes needed for tolerance don’t appear in every individual of a species; if tolerant plants are absent in some local habitats, this could affect the ecosystem by changing the local community composition. Urban environments are the backdrop for many such interactions, which can happen at a speed that hasn’t always been associated with evolution.

“[E]volutionary biologists have been aware of the interactions between ecology and evolution for a long time,” Alberti noted in a follow-up email, “but the potential ecosystem feedback on a contemporary scale has been overlooked until very recently because we thought that evolution was occurring on a very long timescale.”

To take a stab at determining which aspects of urban development hasten evolution’s pace, the researchers coded different kinds of urban disturbance into their models. They found that introduction of new species — predators, prey, hosts and competitors — had a large association with the changes they looked at.

Another potentially major driver of rapid urban evolution is the number and speed of interactions between people and people, people and animals, and people and plants. Counterintuitively, changes to habitat correlated with relatively low evolutionary change, a finding the researchers said might be due to limitations to the study’s methods.

A few words of caution, though: This research is the first to systematically and explicitly examine, using a large global data set, how urbanization affects evolution, so other researchers have not yet replicated it, a process that could help confirm the findings. Meta-analyses like this study rely on already published research, and it’s impossible to get a truly random sample of phenotypic (observable) changes from across the globe, so over- or under-representation of studies from particular areas, ecosystems, or organisms could affect the results. In particular, the authors acknowledge that their conclusions about the relative importance of different urban processes to evolution should be viewed with caution because those results might be influenced by factors including both which species the academic literature considers and the way in which the authors classified interrelated variables that affect evolutionary change.

Still, they recommend that conservation biologists consider this apparent evolutionary change of pace. As plants and animals respond to human reshaping of their environments by evolving in ways that further change the ecosystem, these changes, in turn, can circle back and affect human life.

Andrew Urevig is communications assistant with Ensia. He also works with EnvironmentReports.com and as a freelance writer.

This article was republished from Ensia.

See also:
Animals To Humans: Be Quiet, Already
Awaken Your Nature Awareness

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

October 18, 2019

Early birds may awaken feeling strangely unrested. The Gemini Moon is at odds with Neptune. A dream may linger, unresolved. Use your imagination to revisit the dreamscape and conjure up a happier, more satisfying ending. The day swings into high gear by…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

October 2019

Come shine with us! Join us in harmony and in our goal to bring the light of Spiritualism forward to all those who are searching.

Where:
VFW Post 2597
775 Boston Rd, Rt 3A
Billerica, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Spiritualist Fellowship Church Of New England
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

2nd and 4th Monday of every month This psychic message circle is for anyone wishing to raise their connection using their psychic centers known as the “clairs.” Learn how to use...

Cost: $20

Where:
Messages From Heaven Healing and Learning Center
646 Central Street
Suite 3
Leominster, MA
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Free Evidence-Based Holistic Health Education Program at Wilbraham Senior Center The H.E.A.R.T. Program® (Health Empowerment and Real Transformation), created and instructed by Michelle...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Michelle Caron
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Grades 5-8 Instructor: Kari Pike Wednesdays, 10/16–11/20, 4pm-5pm (6 sessions) Do you ever feel overwhelmed before a test, or when you are working on a difficult homework...

Cost: $125

Where:
Creative Spirit
80 Washington Street
Marblehead, MA  01945
View map »


Telephone: 781-797-0389
Contact Name: Creative Spirit
Website »

More information

Join us at our free boot camp specifically for post-divorce issues! Make new connections while learning essential strategies for building your post-divorce life with confidence and peace of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Skylark Law & Mediation, PC
9 Main Street
Southborough, MA  01772
View map »


Sponsor: Vesta: Redefining Divorce
Telephone: 508-744-6014
Contact Name: Deanna Coyle
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Sleep is one of the most under-appreciated ways to heal the body and improve your health. Getting 8 hours of sleep, more or less, is not enough if it is not good quality sleep. This class will...

Cost: $20

Where:
Open Circle Acupuncture & Healing
411 West Main Street, Suite 2R (rear of building)
Northborough, MA  01532
View map »


Sponsor: Open Circle Acupuncture & Healing
Telephone: 508-393-1212
Contact Name: Kim Flaherty
Website »

More information

Are you separated, divorced, considering divorce, or in the process of divorce? Vesta welcomes you to another of our Divorce Resource Nights! These free events are educational, social and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Leading Edge Real Estate
2 Mount Vernon Street
Winchester, MA  01890
View map »


Sponsor: Vesta: Redefining Divorce
Telephone: 508-744-6014
Contact Name: Deanna Coyle
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Integrate the pelvic floor into your classes with confidence with Cristin Zaimes. Pelvic floor dysfunction is incredibly common, but not very well understood. People often feel embarrassed or...

Cost: $45

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-867-3969
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
Website »

More information

Come and see what this is all about! You will be glad you did. Free to see the demo! Registration required, call 207-221-2363. Here is a podcast for you! What is KCR?...

Cost: Free

Where:
Leapin' Lizards
449 Forest Ave
Portland, ME  04101
View map »


Telephone: 207-221-2363
Website »

More information

The modern science of epigenetics is providing evidence that the patterns of self-sabotage, isolation, chronic illness, depression, addiction, challenges in relationship or an inability to prosper...

Cost: $27

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
386 Merrimack Street, #1A
Methuen, MA  01844
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

Facilitator: Peyton Pugmire Fridays, 9/20, 10/18, 11/15, 12/20, 9:30am–10:30am Everyone leaves with a powerful message to inspire their weekend!  Join Peyton Pugmire,...

Cost: Pay What You Wish

Where:
Creative Spirit
80 Washington Street
Marblehead, MA  01945
View map »


Telephone: 781-797-0389
Contact Name: Creative Spirit
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

In just one day you will come away with valuable knowledge about the issues associated with separation and divorce, increasingly aware of your next steps in the process, bolstered by the new...

Where:
Burns & Levinson
1 Citizens Plaza
Suite 1100
Providence, RI  02903
View map »


Sponsor: Vesta: Redefining Divorce
Telephone: (508) 333-3191
Website »

More information

Explore your psychic awareness in this fun and informative workshop Designed specifically for people who are awakening to their own psychic senses, this class will provide you with personalized,...

Cost: $125

Where:
The Mills at Salmon Falls
3 Front Street
Lower Mill
Rollinsford, NH  03869
View map »


Sponsor: Raylene Sousa Medium LLC
Telephone: 207-956-0220
Contact Name: Raylene Sousa
Website »

More information

Join us at Vesta’s One-Day Divorce Retreat in Providence, RI! In just one day you will come away with valuable knowledge about the issues associated with separation and divorce,...

Cost: $149

Where:
Burns & Levinson
1 Citizens Plaza
Suite 1100
Providence, RI  02903
View map »


Sponsor: Vesta: Redefining Divorce
Telephone: 508-744-6014
Contact Name: Deanna Coyle
Website »

More information

Facilitator: Jamie Berg Adult Level Do you have too much stuff? Would you like to manage all of your stuff with ease? In this workshop you will learn how to KonMari and you will...

Cost: $50

Where:
Creative Spirit
80 Washington Street
Marblehead, MA  01945
View map »


Telephone: 781-797-0389
Contact Name: Creative Spirit
Website »

More information

Every time we see a giggling baby or an innocent child full of laughter, we're reminded that we are all born with this natural and innate sense of happiness, that it is actually our birthright....

Cost: $108 early-bird price ($120 after October 12)

Where:
Unity Farm Sanctuary
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough shopping center
Sherborn, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

Led by Chuck Raffoni ( E-RYT200) named a “person making postiive change in the world for the LGBTQ Community” by Pride Connections and featured on NBC's TODAY SHOW for teaching...

Cost: $50

Where:
KJ Fitness
Tewksbury , MA


Sponsor: YogaWithChuck.Com
Contact Name: Chuck
Website »

More information

Steven Farmer, PhD Here’s a great opportunity to not only clear out the psychic debris that has attached to your soul body as you journeyed through life but also retrieve and reintegrate...

Cost: $77

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
386 Merrimack Street, #1A
Methuen, MA  01844
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

October 19–25 Join Seth Monk and Candita Carracci Mamet for a week of yoga, meditation, personal growth and relaxation.

Where:
Sivananda Ashram Yoga Center
Paradise Island, Bahamas, MA


Website »

More information

Reiki Master Teacher Libby Barnett, M.S.W., integrates her healing skills with past experience as a medical social worker at Massachusetts General Hospital. 38 years experience. Reiki...

Where:
Concord, MA


Telephone: 603-654-2787
Website »

More information

Here’s a great opportunity to not only clear out the psychic debris that has attached to your soul body as you journeyed through life but also retrieve and reintegrate those soul fragments...

Where:
Methuen, MA


Telephone: (978) 474-8010
Website »

More information

Learn to overcome spinal tensions through therapeutic postures, designed to decompress your spine and relieve pain. Taught by a certified yoga therapist, classes bring you through poses...

Cost: 5/$50

Where:
Bliss Through Yoga
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice O'Brien
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags