Studies on the behaviour and evolution of different species, both historically and in the present, has led to fascinating conclusions about how urbanisation and globalisation have impacted the animal kingdom. Phenomena such as man-made migration, changing patterns of behaviour, changing physical features, and even speciation shed light on life in these artificial ecosystems.
The first thing to note is that due to human immigration, cities have brought together species not native to that land, collected from various backgrounds. This has occurred both accidentally and deliberately, as in the case of the parakeet population of Belgium which descends from one group of birds released in 1974 by the owner of a zoo who thought they would brighten up the city of Brussels. These foreign species are fed by a variety of plants, also originating from around the globe, which we grow in our gardens and on our streets.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, however. Our urban species have started to adapt their way of life to the environments they species find themselves in, one example being the UK tits with the surprising ability to open all manner of milk bottle tops. In some cases, the pressures of urban life have been sufficient to trigger the evolution of the species. It was found, for example, that American cliff swallows, which are often found on bridges and roads, had undergone a decrease in wingspan. Correspondingly, individual birds found dead on the road had a higher than average wingspan. The conclusion was drawn that only birds with wings short enough to fly up vertically from the road were able to dodge traffic and reproduce, thus propagating the short wing gene.
An even more interesting observation for researchers has been the signs of speciation, the process by which evolution forms multiple distinct species. One example of this is the blackbird, originally a forest-dwelling animal which is now a common sight in cities. Research from blackbird populations of various countries indicates that the urban blackbird is on the cusp of developing into a distinct species, due to the evolutionary influences of their particular environment.
Applicants for Biology, Natural Sciences, or Geography and those interested in environmental issues may wish to familiarise themselves with the phenomena observed among species in urban environments, and should think more generally about the impact of human lifestyles on other species.
- Download a Biology Personal Statement “Assisting with the post mortem of a dairy cow during... Read more >
- Oxford and Cambridge Access Schemes Oxford and Cambridge aim to offer places to the best... Read more >
- Medicine, Maths, and Economics Puzzles We asked three of our top Medicine, Maths, and... Read more >
- Maths Puzzle: The Age of Census A census-taker knocks on a door, and asks the woman... Read more >
- COPA & International Deadlines Most deadlines are the same for all those applying to... Read more >
- Physical, Mathematical & Chemical Sciences Reading Lists If you’re applying for Physics, Natural Sciences (P), Maths, Computer... Read more >
- Cambridge Law Test overview If you’re applying to read Law at Cambridge you will probably need... Read more >
- Law Reading List Cambridge Law and Oxford Law reading lists and recommended reading. Read more >
- Admissions Tests: our tips as featured in the Independent Last year, the Independent asked us to provide some simple... Read more >
- ELAT mini mock paper If you’re applying to read English at Oxford, you will... Read more >
- Taking a Gap Year There are a number of advantages to taking a gap... Read more >
- Oxford college snapshots With 35 colleges and Permanent Private Halls, choosing how to... Read more >
- History of Art Reading List History of Art at Oxford and Cambridge allows you to... Read more >
- BMAT mini mock paper & answers With over 90% of applicants now preparing for the admissions... Read more >
- Outside reading: the key to a good application When it comes to writing your personal statement and preparing... Read more >
- Geography and Earth Sciences Reading Lists Whether you’re looking at Geography, Earth Sciences (Geology), or Land... Read more >
- Course By Course Fact Sheet This helpful guide sets out by course what grades you... Read more >
- Download a History & English Personal Statement “Evidently reading is a major passion and Graham Greene has... Read more >
- Download a Medicine Personal Statement Read our sample Medicine personal statement for application tips. Read more >
- Social and Political Sciences Reading List We’ve brought together a wide-ranging bibliography to help those applying... Read more >
- History Reading Lists The main challenge in the step up from school to... Read more >
- Cambridge’s Supplementary Application Questionnaire After you have submitted your UCAS application to apply to... Read more >
- University Admissions Tests: How Would You Reply? Here we have a few questions and answers to sample... Read more >
- March’s Top News Stories Read more about some of the biggest news stories to... Read more >