Species of birds living on islands have evolved to have larger brains than their continental relatives. Island conditions have prompted this post-colonization evolution, which enhances adaptability to environmental changes.
The researcher from McGill University, in Quebec, and CREAF associated, visited us again to talk about animal innovation from different points of view, from the ecological implications to the physiological characteristics that allow it.
A study led by Daniel Sol, CISC researcher based at CREAF, shows that cities preserve 450 million years less evolutionary history compared to natural environments. Birds capable of surviving in highly urbanized environments have undergone recent evolution. The arrival of exotic species does not compensate for poor urban evolutionary diversity.
A large brain increases the capacity to adjust behavior to new circumstances through learning, improving resource-gathering in a changing environment. Greater understanding of this capacity can improve predictions of what species of birds and other animals will be most vulnerable to global change.
An analysis of 1018 bird species led by CREAF and CSIC scientists suggests that innovation is not just an adaptation on it own, but emerges with the combination of certain adaptations which developed for dealing with changes in the environment, including having a large brain and being curious. Primates, cetaceans, parrots, and crows innovate because they have long lifespans and are adapted to living in changing environments.
According to a study in which CREAF participated, the populations of birds or butterflies living in open habitats have been negatively affected by the loss of field and scrubland habitat. Conversely, species which live in forests have been favored. These variations were related with changes in the Catalonian (and Mediterranean) landscape over the last few decades.
A new international study relates brain size to the amount of stress hormone in birds. A larger brain increases cognitive ability, which allows them to face new challenges and, ultimately, a more relaxed lifestyle compared to those with a small brain.
According to experts at the CREAF, this capability assures success in the city and the possibility to become "urbanite" animals. A comprehensive review of published studies concludes that in urban environments, species often change their eating habits, lose their fear of humans and modify their way of communicating.