A highlight from Boston's Pigeons Coo, 'Wicked'; New York's Birds Coo, 'Fuhgeddaboudit'

60-Second Science


This scientific americans sixty seconds science. I'm karen hopkin. Boston and new york are famed. For their rivalries everything from the yankees versus the red sox to who makes the correct clam chowder seems even. The local wildlife has hometown pride because pigeons. That reuss near rockefeller center are genetically distinct from those that summer at the cape the findings in the journal evolutionary applications. I don't think we could be in a city without thinking about pigeons and for many people it's one of the few daily interactions they have with wildlife. Elizabeth carlin a graduate student at fordham university in the bronx as an evolutionary biologist. Carlin was curious about whether pigeons in one city are closely related genetically speaking to those from cities nearby so she did a research inspired road trip making stops from boston to dc. I would drive to a city and then start talking to people at starbucks. Anybody that i could chat with. I would start asking them questions about where they saw pigeons and kind of start to gather until that way. Once you've found a flock she'd lay down some birdseed and then use a net gun which is basically something that looks like a big flashlight and it shoots a net out over the pigeons with birds literally in hand. She would take dna sample. I like to call it like a pigeon. Twenty three and me right. We're looking for ancestry and proportion of shared ancestry. And so we can build this big map with all these individuals that kinda tells us who's more closely related to who carlin was surprised to find that pigeons in the northeast can be divided into two distinct populations. One population is in boston in providence. And then the other population ranges from new york down to washington. Dc i had actually based on previous research thought that pigeons in each city would form their own separate populations. Because if you have food and you have made. Why would you go anywhere. Why would you disperse and what. I'm starting to realize that pigeons actually you. This northeastern mega-city as one giant city. At least from boston down to washington. Dc and it wouldn't take much to promote avian intermixing within this city one pigeon will leave new york and go down to philly and then maybe a pigeon from baltimore will come up to philly and that's allowing there to be gene flow between all these different cities maybe the feathered forager's simply following the food. Just think of all the french fries left behind rest stops along. I ninety five if humans are traveling this quarter quite a bit. It makes sense that pigeons also traveling it as to why pigeons don't bother making the trip between boston and new york carlin points to the more manicured lawns of connecticut. Connecticut is a lot more suburban than these other areas. And that might be why. Pigeons in providence and boston are falling out a separate from pigeons more southern cities next up carlin says she'd like to further explore the relationships that exist within flocks but they aunts and uncles and cousins and parents and grandparents or are they just a random group of individuals that happened to come together. Hopefully not in the middle of the

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