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Why Some Animals Thrive in Cities

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Eat almost anything. Sleep almost anywhere. These, it seems, are the secrets to surviving in the city as a wild animal. Among the species that dominate urban spaces—pigeons, cockroaches, rats, foxes—these are the most obvious characteristics successful city dwellers have.

But they aren’t the only tactics for urban survival. A new study has uncovered four very different sets of traits that animals use to prosper in the city. “There isn’t one-size-fits-all for how different species or different taxa respond to urbanization,” says Amy Hahs of the Green Infrastructure Research Group at the University of Melbourne, who led the research. Understanding how different types of animals adapt to the city in different ways, and what drives these changes, could help us improve urban biodiversity, and with it the overall health of our urban environment.

Biodiversity studies in cities tend to focus on which species dominate, not how they manage to do so. So the study’s research team set out to change this. Specifically, their ambition was to answer two questions: Is eating anything…

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