What makes an urban synanthrope?


Synanthropes often share several characteristics:

  • They are typically generalists –their diet varies according to what’s available.
  • They are often opportunistic,r-selected” species (short lifespan with high reproduction rate – think cockroaches and rats).
  • Many are behaviorally flexible and capable of problem solving.

Among the functional groups of species that fair particularly well in urban environments are:

  • Mesopredators – mid-sized consumers (think raccoons and coyotes). For these organisms, urbanization provides a variety of new and abundant food resources, and a plethora of man-made shelters for protection. In addition, urbanization may eliminate major predators, which control mesopredator populations in natural environments.
  • Pioneer species – stress-tolerant organisms that grow rapidly and are first to colonize novel or disturbed habitats. They aren’t always the best competitors and may be outcompeted for resources by other species when environmental degradation and disturbance are minimal. But in human-impacted habitats like cities, they can reign supreme – unphased by abiotic conditions that other species would find intolerable.

We are just beginning to identify the potential synanthropes that live in urban seascapes. Click on the tiles below to learn more: