Behavioral variation and plasticity enable survival in urban environments

Urbanization has drastically changed biodiversity patterns. While the majority of species cope poorly with urban habitats, some species flourish in cities. Our understanding of behavioral characteristics that facilitate this exploitation, however, remains poor. We explored between and within species and individual variation in behaviors in ecologically similar orbweaving spider species whose abundances differ along the urban–rural gradient.We detect both consistent individual differences and plasticity, in individuals’ response to a novel environment, suggesting that some degree of flexibility in reaction to novelty may be crucial in an urbanized environment. We also found that variation in aggressiveness type enables survival in high density conditions, conditions typical for urban populations. Urban populations thus exhibit a complex pattern of behavioral flexibility and behavioral stability.


Photo: Rainer Altenkamp, Berlin. Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0.