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The effects of urbanization and human disturbance on problem solving in juvenile house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus)

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Urbanization exposes wildlife to many unfamiliar environmental conditions, including the presence of novel structures and food sources. Adapting to or thriving within such anthropogenic modifications may involve cognitive skills, whereby animals come to solve novel problems while navigating, foraging, etc.

Urbanization exposes wildlife to many unfamiliar environmental conditions, including the presence of novel structures and food sources. Adapting to or thriving within such anthropogenic modifications may involve cognitive skills, whereby animals come to solve novel problems while navigating, foraging, etc. The increased presence of humans in urban areas is an additional environmental challenge that may potentially impact cognitive performance in wildlife. To date, there has been little experimental investigation into how human disturbance affects problem solving in animals from urban and rural areas. Urban animals may show superior cognitive performance in the face of human disturbance, due to familiarity with benign human presence, or rural animals may show greater cognitive performance in response to the heightened stress of unfamiliar human presence. Here, I studied the relationship between human disturbance, urbanization, and the ability to solve a novel foraging problem in wild-caught juvenile house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus). This songbird is a successful urban dweller and native to the deserts of the southwestern United States. In captivity, finches captured from both urban and rural populations were presented with a novel foraging task (sliding a lid covering their typical food dish) and then exposed to regular periods of high or low human disturbance over several weeks before they were again presented with the task. I found that rural birds exposed to frequent human disturbance showed reduced task performance compared to human-disturbed urban finches. This result is consistent with the hypothesis that acclimation to human presence protects urban birds from reduced cognition, unlike rural birds. Some behaviors related to solving the problem (e.g. pecking at and eying the dish) also differed between urban and rural finches, possibly indicating that urban birds were less neophobic and more exploratory than rural ones. However, these results were unclear. Overall, these findings suggest that urbanization and acclimation to human presence can strongly predict avian response to novelty and cognitive challenges.

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2015-05

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Examining sex and urban-rural differences in preen oil composition in the house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

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Self-maintenance behaviors, like preening in birds, can have important effects on fitness in many animals. Birds produce preen oil, which is a mixture of volatile and non-volatile compounds, that is spread through their feathers during grooming and influences feather integrity,

Self-maintenance behaviors, like preening in birds, can have important effects on fitness in many animals. Birds produce preen oil, which is a mixture of volatile and non-volatile compounds, that is spread through their feathers during grooming and influences feather integrity, waterproofing, and coloration. As urban areas grow and present conditions that may demand increased feather self-maintenance (e.g. due to soiling, pollution, elevated UV exposure due to natural habitat alterations), it is important to examine how preening and preen oil may be affected by this process. I assessed variation in preen oil composition in house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) as a function of sex, urbanization, and plumage hue, a sexually selected indicator of male quality. Preen oil samples from birds captured at urban and rural sites were analyzed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. We detected 18 major peaks, which we tentatively identified as esters, and found that, although there were no sex or urban-rural differences in preen oil constituents, there was a significant interactive effect of sex and urbanization, with rural females and urban males having higher amounts of some components. This suggests that factors that vary with sex or urbanization, such as the timing of seasonal cycles, are affecting preen oil composition. There were no significant relationships between coloration and preen oil composition, suggesting that preen oil composition does not vary with male quality.

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2015-05

A Review on the Generation, Determination and Mitigation of Urban Heat Island

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Urban Heat Island (UHI) is considered as one of the major problems in the 21st century posed to human beings as a result of urbanization and industrialization of human civilization. The large amount of heat generated from urban structures, as

Urban Heat Island (UHI) is considered as one of the major problems in the 21st century posed to human beings as a result of urbanization and industrialization of human civilization. The large amount of heat generated from urban structures, as they consume and re-radiate solar radiations, and from the anthropogenic heat sources are the main causes of UHI. The two heat sources increase the temperatures of an urban area as compared to its surroundings, which is known as Urban Heat Island Intensity (UHII). The problem is even worse in cities or metropolises with large population and extensive economic activities. The estimated three billion people living in the urban areas in the world are directly exposed to the problem, which will be increased significantly in the near future. Due to the severity of the problem, vast research effort has been dedicated and a wide range of literature is available for the subject. The literature available in this area includes the latest research approaches, concepts, methodologies, latest investigation tools and mitigation measures. This study was carried out to review and summarize this research area through an investigation of the most important feature of UHI. It was concluded that the heat re-radiated by the urban structures plays the most important role which should be investigated in details to study urban heating especially the UHI. It was also concluded that the future research should be focused on design and planning parameters for reducing the effects of urban heat island and ultimately living in a better environment.

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2007-09-27