Avian urban dwellers are better invaders due to their enhanced behavioral plasticity (#523)
Behavioral plasticity has been identified as a major feature of successful invaders, but the underlying mechanisms are insufficiently understood. Because successful invaders tend to attain higher success in urbanized environments, we argue that a main mechanism by which behavioral plasticity should facilitate invasions is by allowing individuals to better exploit such human-altered habitats. Based on a phylogenetic analysis of historical avian introductions, we show that species that are more tolerant to urbanization in their region of origin are also more successful at establishing themselves following human-mediated introductions. However, this is not simply because urban tolerant species are more readily available for introductions or because urbanized environments are easier to invade; rather, successful avian invaders are characterized by a number of adaptations -notably a larger brain relative to body size, a broader habitat preferences, and a life history strategy based on prioritizing future reproduction- that allow them better adjusting their behavior to the drastic environmental alterations that characterize urbanized environments. Our results provide thus evidence for the commonly assumed but rarely demonstrated hypothesis that behavioral plasticity allows animals to cope with environmental disturbances, an issue of considerable conservation relevance in a context of rapid-human induced environmental changes.