Climate change is toppling our Earth's ecosystems out of balance in multiple ways, with often dramatic consequences. Many plants and animals are already impacted. But surprisingly, it is only poorly understood which are the specific threats, and how the actual consequences will look like.
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.
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.