Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

City slicker or country bumpkin: City-life changes blackbird personalities

Date:
June 19, 2013
Source:
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Summary:
The origins of a young animal might have a significant impact on its behavior later on in life. Researchers have been able to demonstrate in hand-reared blackbirds that urban-born individuals are less curious and more cautious about new objects than their country counterparts. This study sheds light on an interesting debate on whether personality differences between rural and urban birds are behavioral adjustments to urban environments, or if there is an underlying evolutionary basis to the existence of different personalities in urban habitats.

Behavioural experiments on urban and forest-dwelling blackbirds. Urban blackbirds wait longer than their forest-born counterparts before approaching a new object (in this case, a plastic cup).
Credit: MPI f. Ornithology/Catarina Miranda

The origins of a young animal might have a significant impact on its behaviour later on in life. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, Germany, have been able to demonstrate in hand-reared blackbirds that urban-born individuals are less curious and more cautious about new objects than their country counterparts. This study sheds light on an interesting debate on whether personality differences between rural and urban birds are behavioural adjustments to urban environments, or if there is an underlying evolutionary basis to the existence of different personalities in urban habitats.

Related Articles


It's something pet owners have always known: animals have personalities too. More than 100 species have so far been identified by scientists where individuals consistently follow distinct behavioural strategies and behave in similar ways in a variety of situations. Scientists believe that such differences may also be important in adapting to new habitats.

Urbanization has considerably changed the living conditions of many wild animals. Animals living in urban areas need to cope with new anthropogenically-altered living conditions. A textbook example is the European blackbird (Turdus merula). Historically a forest-dweller, the blackbird is now one of the most common bird species found in our cities. In these new habitats, the blackbird has changed its behaviour in many ways: urban blackbirds migrate less in the winter, breed earlier, and live in higher densities than their forest conspecifics.

Cities might be also responsible for fundamental changes in the behaviour of wild animals across the globe. A team from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell analysed existing studies on differences between urban and rural populations of various species. In 27 out of 29 studies, animals in the city responded differently to new stimuli than animals in the countryside. "This seems to be a global phenomenon," comments Ana Catarina Miranda, the lead author in the study.

Moreover, the Radolfzell scientists tested whether or not these behavioural differences also reflect different personality types and if so, whether this is a result of evolutionary changes or individual flexibility.. To this end, the scientists collected nestlings from an urban and a rural environment, hand-reared them and kept them individually under identical conditions. When these blackbirds matured into adults, the researchers repeatedly presented individuals with unfamiliar objects over a period of several months.

Compared with birds from the forest, the birds from the city waited much longer before they approached a new object. Not only did urban blackbirds react more cautiously towards new objects, they also tended to avoid unfamiliar objects. Since all the birds were collected as nestlings, hand-reared, and kept under identical conditions during the entire experiment, the differences in behavioural responses between urban and rural blackbirds seem to be intrinsic and not a result of experiencing the original urban or rural environments. A recently published study supports these findings: Genes which are believed to be involved in shaping personality traits exhibit a different structure in urban blackbirds than in their rural counterparts.

This work is an important step to understand how animals cope with our urbanizing world. Different reasons might be behind differences in personality types between urban and rural animals, and this is a question to be further explored. "Animals in fast-paced urban environments face numerous and potentially dangerous new situations, and this might select for specific reactions towards novelty," suggests Miranda. "Evolution appears to have favoured certain personality types."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Ana Catarina Miranda, Holger Schielzeth, Tanja Sonntag, Jesko Partecke. Urbanization and its effects on personality traits: a result of microevolution or phenotypic plasticity? Global Change Biology, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12258
  2. J. C. Mueller, J. Partecke, B. J. Hatchwell, K. J. Gaston, K. L. Evans. Candidate gene polymorphisms for behavioural adaptations during urbanization in blackbirds. Molecular Ecology, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/mec.12288

Cite This Page:

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "City slicker or country bumpkin: City-life changes blackbird personalities." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130619101525.htm>.
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. (2013, June 19). City slicker or country bumpkin: City-life changes blackbird personalities. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130619101525.htm
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "City slicker or country bumpkin: City-life changes blackbird personalities." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130619101525.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. 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