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Ecology. 2006 Aug;87(8):1945-52.

Stress and the city: urbanization and its effects on the stress physiology in European blackbirds.

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Max-Planck Institute for Ornithology, Department of Biological Rhythms and Behaviour, Von-der-Tann-Strasse 7, Andechs and Seewiesen 82346, Germany.


Animals colonizing cities are exposed to many novel and potentially stressful situations. There is evidence that chronic stress can cause deleterious effects. Hence, wild animals would suffer from city life unless they adjusted their stress response to the conditions in a city. Here we show that European Blackbirds born in a city have a lower stress response than their forest conspecifics. We hand-raised urban and forest-living individuals of that species under identical conditions and tested their corticosterone stress response at an age of 5, 8, and 11 months. The results suggest that the difference is genetically determined, although early developmental effects cannot be excluded. Either way, the results support the idea that urbanization creates a shift in coping styles by changing the stress physiology of animals. The reduced stress response could be ubiquitous and, presumably, necessary for all animals that thrive in ecosystems exposed to frequent anthropogenic disturbances, such as those in urban areas.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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