ABS 2023
Learning to adapt or exaptation? Are urban environments cognitively demanding for successful invaders?
Lily Johnson-Ulrich, Sofia IF Forss. Universit�t Z�rich, Z�rich, , Switzerland

Why do some animals become extinct while others thrive under increasing urbanization? Comparative research suggests that large brained, innovative species are more likely to survive in novel habitats, including urban ones. Such findings have led to the hypothesis that urban environments likely present novel challenges for animals and traits like neophilia and innovativeness help animals adapt to these challenges. However, intraspecific research testing this hypothesis by comparing urban and nonurban conspecifics has produced highly mixed results. Here, we question whether urban environments really are more cognitively demanding than native habitats. Instead, we propose that most urban invaders, including innovative ones, are exapted to exploit the opportunities created by urban environments. We emphasize that intraspecific variation between urban and nonurban populations may result from myriad other factors. In particular, habituation towards humans is almost certainly altered in urban populations and recent research suggests that habituation can have a significant influence on how animals interact with human-made artefacts.