Behavioural adjustments for a life in the city

Daniel Sol, Oriol Lapiedra, Cesar González-Lagos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

384 Scopus citations

Abstract

While human-induced rapid environmental changes are putting many organisms at risk of extinction, others are doing better than ever. This raises the question of why organisms differ in their tolerance to environmental alterations. Here, we ask whether and how behavioural adjustments assist animals in dealing with the urbanization process, one of the primary causes of biodiversity loss and biotic homogenization. Based on a literature review, we present both theoretical and empirical arguments to show that behavioural adjustments to urban habitats are widespread and that they may potentially be important in facilitating resource use, avoiding disturbances and enhancing communication. While a growing number of studies report behavioural differences between urban and nonurban animals, very few studies directly address the underlying mechanisms. In some cases, the changes in behaviour occur very rapidly and involve learning, and hence can be attributed to behavioural plasticity. In other cases, however, it cannot be ruled out that behavioural differences between urban and nonurban animals result from natural selection or nonrandom sorting of individuals by behavioural traits that affect dispersal, habitat selection or establishment. Because the urbanization process is expected to continue to threaten biodiversity in the near future, there is some urgency to improve our understanding of the mechanisms through which behaviour helps animals to cope with such environmental alterations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1101-1112
Number of pages12
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Volume85
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Biological invasions
  • Ecological opportunity
  • Habitat change
  • Niche conservatism
  • Temperament

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