Urban Birds have Bigger Brains

Van Mensvoort
May 1st 2011

Researchers learned that city birds have larger brains relative to their body size. No, they are not getting big-headed from their exposure to big-city sophistication, but rather need larger brains to survive in the more challenging urban environments.

The biologists from institutions in Sweden and Spain studied 82 species of birds from 22 families, focusing on 12 cities in France and Switzerland. Their findings are published in the journal Biology Letters.

"We were interested whether behavioural flexibility can increase the chance of a given species to successfully colonise cities," explained evolutionary biology expert Dr Alexei Maklakov.

"After all, a centre of a modern city is a novel and rather harsh environment for most species and the ability to sustain a varied diet or develop novel foraging techniques and perhaps utilise non-standard nesting places, can be beneficial."

Previous studies have highlighted the link between larger brains and behavioral innovation in birds and mammals, but this is said to be the first time brain size has been shown to be a key factor for an animal’s survival in urban environments.

The study concludes that cities wanting to lure a wider variety of birds for residents to enjoy will have to “create patches of (the birds’) original habitat.”

Via: BBC News.

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