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.
- Oxford or Cambridge? Many applicants know that they want the best, but when... Read more >
- UCAS: A How To Guide The process of applying to university through UCAS can seem... Read more >
- College selection checklist Your college at Oxford or Cambridge is where you will... Read more >
- International Applicant Handbook This incredible resource will guide you through every stage of... Read more >
- Download a Medicine Personal Statement Read our sample Medicine personal statement for application tips. Read more >
- The Architecture of an Education: what are colleges all about? Explaining the difference between Oxford and Cambridge colleges and the... Read more >
- Personal Statement Action Plan: Section 1 of 2 The UCAS personal statement will be a key part of... Read more >
- Are my grades good enough for Oxbridge? Grades are an area of much misunderstanding when it comes... Read more >
- TSA overview A huge range of subjects at both Oxford and Cambridge... Read more >
- Your free E-book… “So You Want To Go To Oxbridge? Tell me about a banana…” If you are applying to Oxford or Cambridge, there are... Read more >
- Pooling: Fast Facts You may have heard people talk about “pooling”, or maybe... Read more >
- UCAT mini mock paper & answers If you are applying for Medicine or Dentistry, many of... Read more >
- Information on choosing a course at Oxford or Cambridge “Perhaps it is because Oxbridge encourages more ‘traditional’ A Level... Read more >
- HAT overview If you’re applying for History, or its joint schools, you... Read more >
- ELAT overview If you’re applying for English, or its joint schools, you... Read more >
- Economics & Logic Puzzle: ticket touts We asked top Economics blogger Resham Kotecha to challenge us... Read more >
- Oxbridge Open Day Guide With open days drawing ever nearer, applicants and parents alike... Read more >
- Communications expert top tips One of our communications specialists, has his own advice for... Read more >
- Using stats: dos and don’ts When making an application, you must be careful about using... Read more >
- What makes a good interview? The notion of an academic interview with prominent Oxbridge academics is a major... Read more >
- Oxford and Cambridge International Grade Requirements If you’re applying to Cambridge or Oxford but you’ve not... Read more >
- Medicine, Maths, and Economics Puzzles We asked three of our top Medicine, Maths, and... Read more >
- The Differences Between Similar Courses At Oxford and Cambridge For some applicants, deciding between applying to Oxford or Cambridge... Read more >
- Cambridge’s Supplementary Application Questionnaire After you have submitted your UCAS application to apply to... Read more >