Fly Away Home: How Birds Evolve with Automobile Traffic

Those that learn, earn their place. It seems that even birds are taking this survival of the fittest motto to heart in a new unique way. A study has recently yielded that birds may be learning from each other about our speed demon tendencies. The truth is, I vaguely remember the last time I saw roadkill on the highway during my commute to work. Even so, reportedly:

An estimated 80 million birds are killed by colliding with vehicles on U. S. roads each year, and millions more die annually in Europe and elsewhere.

Yes, those numbers do seem ridiculously high, but there may be hope for our little companions that fly near our speedy death machines. Researchers Charles R. Brown and Mary Bomberger Brown in Nebraska found that although the swallow population increased over their 30 year study period, the death by vehicle fatality of swallows sharply decreased from 1983 to 2012. Swallows tend to learn from their neighbors, which is a trait shared by many animals, and natural instinct may be evolving in species to guide them away from human dangers.

The study also mentions that the birds living near highways have, through a possible natural selection, evolved to have smaller wingspans for quicker movements vertically in the air allowing for a zippy escape from oncoming traffic. If a bird with a larger wingspan decided to fly into traffic, it would have a harder time flying directly up and away from danger than its smaller counterpart because of the lower wing loading of longer wings.

What does it all mean? Is mother nature preparing against human interaction? Have we affected our animal neighbors so much that they have to develop an internal mechanism to evolve with our advancing technology? What happens when we start hovering from place to place? Will the animals adapt to our flight? Or will we simply find more animals mourning each other’s deaths as humans continue to evolve?

At least it is nice to know that humans get the respect they deserve. I wonder what else we can passively bend to our will!

 

Research:

Where Has Roadkill Gone

Wing Loading

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A New Tune for Grasshoppers

The days are long gone when the noise of crickets filled the city nights. I’m sure being overtaken by the sound of traffic was depressing for many animals, but they’re not all just laying down and dying. Some city grasshoppers have started changing their tune. They’re not so depressed anymore, or so quiet.

Grasshoppers in urban areas are changing the tune of their courtship songs so as to be heard over the sound of traffic.

A research team from the University of Bielefeld Germany have discovered some grasshoppers have started to change the frequency of their song to be heard over the roar of vehicles. This evolutionary change in grasshoppers could is very exciting to see. I can only imagine what the future will bring…
Sources:

http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/320/20121123/grasshoppers-change-courtship-tunes-cope-urban-noises.htm

http://www.uni-bielefeld.de/(en)/

 

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