Cities are driving rapid evolutionary changes to plant and animal species, according to a study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Usually, we think of evolution as happening in remote, isolated, or pristine places—the Galapagos Islands, for example. But the new findings suggest that scientists can’t understand evolution as it’s currently occurring without grappling with the complex and expanding urban landscape.
An international team of researchers searched the scientific literature for data on changes in the phenotype—meaning outward characteristics, like appearance and behavior—of species living in different environments.
They analyzed these changes according to whether the species studied lived in an urban landscape, another type of human-influenced environment such as agricultural land, or in natural areas. Overall, their analysis included 89 studies that gauged over 1,600 characteristics of 155 species.