Now there's a scientific explanation for why Big Bird chooses to live in downtown Manhattan. For the first time, researchers have found evidence that the most successful urban bird species have bigger brains than exclusively rural species, suggesting a greater adaptability to unnatural environments. By measuring the brain volumes of 82 different bird species (corrected for body size) and comparing them against each group's ability to breed in 12 different urban centers in Europe, the researchers found a strong correlation between large brains and city-dwelling. In their paper published in Biology Letters today, the authors suggest that this phenomenon likely holds true for other vertebrates as well: street smarts help birds find innovative solutions to problems such as a lack of trees, ubiquitous plate glass windows, and deciding whether or not to eat streetcart hot dogs off the sidewalk.
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