Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution

Menno Schilthuizen is one of a growing number of urban ecologists studying how our manmade environments are accelerating and changing the evolution of the animals and plants around us. In Darwin Comes to Town, he takes us around the world for an up-close look at just how stunningly flexible and swift-moving natural selection can be.

J. Paul Neeley

J. Paul is a London based designer and researcher with expertise in Speculative Design, Service Design, Design Research, and Strategy.

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Gemma Jones

Interdisciplinary cultural researcher and strategist specialising in semiotics and futures thinking

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August 25, 2021

*Carrion crows in the Japanese city of Sendai have learned to use passing traffic to crack nuts.

*Lizards in Puerto Rico are evolving feet that better grip surfaces like concrete.

*Europes urban blackbirds sing at a higher pitch than their rural cousins, to be heardover the din of traffic.

How is this happening?

Menno Schilthuizen is one of a growing number of urban ecologists studying how our manmade environments are accelerating and changing the evolution of the animals and plants around us. In Darwin Comes to Town, he takes us around the world for an up-close look at just how stunningly flexible and swift-moving natural selection can be.

With human populations growing, we're having an increasing impact on global ecosystems, and nowhere do these impacts overlap as much as they do in cities. The urban environment is about as extreme as it gets, and the wild animals and plants that live side-by-side with us need to adapt to a whole suite of challenging conditions: they must manage in the city's hotter climate (the urban heat island); they need to be able to live either in the semidesert of the tall, rocky, and cavernous structures we call buildings or in the pocket-like oases of city parks (which pose their own dangers, including smog and free-rangingdogs and cats); traffic causes continuous noise, a mist of fine dust particles, and barriers to movement for any animal that cannot fly or burrow; food sources are mainly human-derived. And yet, as Schilthuizen shows, the wildlife sharing these spaces with us is not just surviving, but evolving ways of thriving.

Darwin Comes toTown draws on eye-popping examples of adaptation to share a stunning vision of urban evolution in which humans and wildlife co-exist in a unique harmony. It reveals that evolution can happen far more rapidly than Darwin dreamed, while providing a glimmer of hope that our race toward over population might not take the rest of nature down with us.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Darwin-Comes-Town-Jungle-Evolution/dp/1250127823/

Further Reading
Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Realities of Climate Chaos
‘Deep adaptation’ refers to the personal and collective changes that might help us to prepare for – and live with – a climate-influenced breakdown or collapse of our societies. It is a framework for responding to the terrifying realization of increasing disruption by committing ourselves to reducing suffering while saving more of society and the natural world.
August 25, 2021
Anthropocene or Capitalocene? : Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism
The Earth has reached a tipping point. Runaway climate change, the sixth great extinction of planetary life, the acidification of the oceans - all point toward an era of unprecedented turbulence in humanity's relationship within the web of life. But just what is that relationship, and how do we make sense of this extraordinary transition?
June 25, 2021