Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

So much for the big-brained city bird theory?

Posted 05 Aug 2015 / 0

BMC EcologyCommonness and ecology, but not bigger brains, predict urban living in birds

What makes this study smart is that it compares the birds that live successfully in urban areas with the birds that actually have the potential to colonize cities. This makes for a much more meaningful comparison than simply comparing urban species to species in general, because many species do not colonize cities simply because they do not have access to do so. Urban commensalism might be mostly be about proximity: geography often plays a critical role in local diversity patterns.

I am fascinated by the subjective side of science, which always has to do with what questions we ask and what answers we are willing to entertain to those questions. Here it seems that earlier studies were biased by the idea that in order to function in ‘complex urban environments’, birds need higher cognitive potential. Perhaps our bias towards that conclusion stems from our own conception of ourselves. I do think that it is a little funny that humans assume that the city is somehow more complex than wild areas, especially as non-human animals perceive it. I have to figure that if you are a pigeon the city seems pretty darn easy and simple: that might be part of its appeal.

A Minor Post, Adaptation, Articles, Behavior, Birds, Brain size, Coevolution, Cognitive Ability, Commensalism, Conservation Biology, Habitat Destruction, Resilience, Urban Ecology

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