City-Dwelling Insects Are Tougher Than Their Rural Counterparts

City-Dwelling Insects Are Tougher Than Their Rural Counterparts

It is commonly believed that only the few with the thickest skin can survive life in the big city. When it comes to humans that claim is debatable. However, when it comes to insects, science has proven that urban-dwelling insects are tougher than their rural counterparts. A recent study conducted in New York City has demonstrated how insects living in cities are more resilient to harsh weather conditions than insects living in more natural environments. The study focused on insect populations that existed in New York City before and after Hurricane Sandy struck New York City.

An assistant professor of biology at Rutgers, Amy Savage, is studying the effects that harsh weather conditions have on insect populations dwelling within cities. Savage’s research will help conservation experts better predict how harsh weather conditions will affect insect populations in the future. Savage’s study focused solely on a hurricane’s impact on insect populations.

Savage started her study in 2012 in response to the devastation caused by hurricane Sandy. Savage analyzed insect populations that existed in New York City before and after the storm. Savage focused on two different common insect habitats in all big cities. These habitats were local parks and roadway medians. Both of these locations contain a diverse amount of insect life.

Before the hurricane, insect diversity was greater in parks than it was in roadway medians. However, after the storm subsided, the opposite was the case, as both medians and parks contained a comparable degree of insect diversity. Park dwelling insect populations suffered far more than road median insect populations.This finding supports the hypothesis that city-dwelling insects are more resilient to harsh weather than urban insects.

Since insect life is harsh on roadway medians they should be better adapted to survive harsh conditions than park-dwelling insects. Medians do not offer insects much in the way of resources, such as food and mating opportunities, and avoiding death has to be learned. City parks, on the other hand, offer insects an abundance of resources. An insect’s natural environment is not much different than a park environment, therefore park-dwelling insects have not been forced to adapt to harsh conditions to the same degree as insects dwelling on roadway medians.

Do you believe that the researchers could accurately account for the discrepancies in population differences between large parks and smaller roadway medians?

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