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Animals Are Evolving Because Of Human Cities: Study

5 November 2017, 6:49 am EST By Athena Chan Tech Times
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Researchers find that urban development in various places around the world is causing animals in the urban setting to evolve at a rapid rate. The changes that animals have been forced to make also bring public health consequences.

Urban Evolution

Researchers from the University of Toronto and Fordham University have found that animals in urban settings have adapted and evolved rapidly in response to urbanization. As a result of habitat loss because of barriers, buildings, and roads, the creatures that once thrived in their own habitats have had to adapt — leaving the question of which species could survive in the relatively new environment.

Just last month, researchers revealed that the staggering amount of birdfeeders that people place in their homes have resulted in the rapid evolution of British Great Tits, whose beaks have gotten longer in the last few decades alone. This in itself is a prime example of how quickly evolution can take place given a foreign enough environment to be forced to adapt to. Mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, plants, and even insects and even viruses are all susceptible to this phenomenon.

The Question Of Public Health

Because these animals were forced into an entirely new environment, some of them have adapted to become more threatening to public health. For instance, bed bugs and other pests weren't much of a problem in the past but have adapted to insecticides and have since had a massive increase in population.

In London, mosquitoes thriving in the London Underground have evolved to drop their need to feed on blood in order to produce eggs, as well as their dormancy in winter. These mosquitoes carry a number of diseases and have alarmingly been found in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Mindful Urbanization

That's not saying that urban development is completely bad for the environment, as it has allowed some species to survive and even thrive in the new environment. However, at the same time, it also opened the way for some diseases and pests to thrive and spread more quickly.

"We've created a novel ecosystem that no organism has ever seen before," said Marc Johnson of University of Toronto, co-author of the study, stating that the results of their study serves as a wake-up call to scientists, civilians, and authorities to be more responsible in urban development as it affects not just humans, but the other creatures as well.

That said, perhaps a little more mindfulness in urban development could benefit the humans and the environment, while at the same time controlling the spread of disease-carrying pests.

The study is published in the journal Science.

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