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.

"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 August 29, 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 August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Hoping to break the record for world's wooliest, Shaun the sheep came up 10 pounds shy with his fleece weighing over 50 pounds after being shorn for the first time in years. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) Canadian scientists looking into the very first land animals took a fish out of water and forced it to walk. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Ancient Wine Cellar Found In Israel

Huge Ancient Wine Cellar Found In Israel

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) An international team uncovered a large ancient wine celler that likely belonged to a Cannonite ruler. 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:
from the past week

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