November 13 2019
12:00 LSB 2320
Department of Biological Sciences, Fordham University
The Evolution of Life in Urban Environments: New York City Rodents as a Case Study
Over 50% of the human population now live in cities, and urban areas are growing dramatically around the world. Although often thought of as biologically unimportant, cities contain unique communities of native and non-native species, including pests with long histories of association with humans. Evolutionary biologists have recently documented several cases of evolution of these species in response to urbanization, and it is increasingly apparent that cities may be hotspots of rapid evolution. This talk reviews these cases and outlines the big evolutionary questions for the nascent field of urban evolutionary biology. I also examine these evolutionary questions using New York City’s rodents as case studies. A unique assemblage of native and nonnative rodents inhabit New York City, but differ in their occupancy of “green” and “gray” infrastructure. They also vary in their ability to disperse through urban landscapes, which can have profound implications for genetic drift, migration, and selection in urban populations. For the past eight years my lab has been using population genomic approaches to investigate the evolutionary biology of white-footed mouse populations in and around New York City. This talk reviews our work on loss of genome-wide variation, evolutionary potential, historical demography, and natural selection in these populations. Unlike white-footed mice that are isolated in urban forests, NYC rats avoid forest fragments but occupy much of the remaining urban habitat. Our lab has also investigated the population genomics of NYC rats (and populations around the world) to understand how they use urban space, how they have adapted to new urban conditions, and how they are related to rat populations around the world.
Host: Shane Campbell-Staton