Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Where, oh where, has the road kill gone?

Date:
March 18, 2013
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
Millions of birds die in the US each year as they collide with moving vehicles, but things have been looking up, at least in the case of cliff swallows. Today's swallows are hit less often, thanks to shorter wingspans that may help them take off more quickly and pivot away from passing cars.

This image shows living birds at their nest.
Credit: Current Biology, Brown et al.

Millions of birds die in the US each year as they collide with moving vehicles, but things have been looking up, at least in the case of cliff swallows. Today's swallows are hit less often, thanks to shorter wingspans that may help them take off more quickly and pivot away from passing cars. The findings, reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on March 18, show that urban environments can be evolutionary hotspots.

Related Articles


"Evolution is an ongoing process, and all this -- roads, SUVs, and all -- is part of nature or 'the wild'; they exert selection pressures in a way we don't usually think about," says Charles R. Brown of the University of Tulsa.

Brown and his colleagues, including Mary Bomberger Brown from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, have been studying cliff swallows in Nebraska since 1982. The birds there build clusters of mud nests attached to vertical walls under bridges, overpasses, or railroad tracks, often in colonies of thousands.

Every year, for the last 30 years, the researchers have traveled the very same roads to collect dead birds and compare them to birds that died accidentally in other ways.

Those road kill surveys now reveal a sharp decline in mortality over the last 30 years, a drop that can't be explained by declines in the bird population or in traffic volume. The birds that continue to die on the roads are those with longer-than-average wingspans.

"Longer-winged swallows sitting on a road probably can't take off as quickly, or gain altitude as quickly, as shorter-winged birds, and thus the former are more likely to collide with an oncoming vehicle," Brown explains.

It's possible that other factors are also at play. For instance, swallows do learn from each other. Regardless of the underlying causes, the study's findings definitively show that traffic-related mortality can lessen over time even when traffic does not.

The researchers say that may be good news for other species -- including turtles and snakes -- which are also known to suffer significant mortality on the nation's roadways.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Charles R. Brown, Mary Bomberger Brown. Where has all the road kill gone? Current Biology, 2013; 23 (6): R233 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.02.023

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Where, oh where, has the road kill gone?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130318132627.htm>.
Cell Press. (2013, March 18). Where, oh where, has the road kill gone?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130318132627.htm
Cell Press. "Where, oh where, has the road kill gone?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130318132627.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 27, 2014) A British palaeontologist has discovered a new species of dinosaur while studying fossils in a Canadian museum. Pentaceratops aquilonius was related to Triceratops and lived at the end of the Cretaceous Period, around 75 million years ago. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) The iconic piano from "Casablanca" and the Cowardly Lion suit from "The Wizard of Oz" fetch millions at auction. Sara Hemrajani reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins