In this series I reflect upon the adaptive changes made by birds and humans 65 million years after the K/T mass extinction event. Birds are the only dinosaurs to have survived the K/T extinction, which opened an ecological niche for mammals and the eventual rise of humans. Both birds and mammal exhibited explosions in their diversity after the K/T event, in part, due to their intellectual capacity, adaptability, and problem solving skills.
Although a six miles wide asteroid impact and unprecedented volcanic activity precipitated the K/T event, humans are triggering the next and 6th great mass extinction. Over half of the world’s population now lives in cities creating immense ecological changes and landscape transformations, otherwise known as urbanization. Urbanization increases pollution, the temperature of densely populated areas, and alters the amount of rainfall in cities. Urbanization changes the behavior of birds as they adapt to human industrialization a phenomenon called synurbization, which ultimately leads to accelerated evolution of these animals.
Synurbization reduces bird migration during seasonal changes as cities provide the ability to survive winters. In effect, birds are becoming more sedentary paralleling the human condition. Birds navigate by several methods, which include orienting to the sun, the stars, earth’s magnetic fields and roads. Given light pollution at night and the noise emitted by electromagnetic radiation (e.g., cell phones, radio waves, Wi-Fi signals) cities critically impact on how birds orient, fly to their locations, and ultimately mate.
Birds and humans are species that perhaps benefited the most from the K/T extinction. Yet, it is precisely this prosperity of human evolution that is ushering in another great extinction event. This time around what species will benefit if we ultimately undermine our own survival? I aim to show how birds will interact with our urban environment in the absence of humans.