Identifying drivers of urban association in wildlife is a central challenge in conservation biology. Traits facilitating access to novel resources and avoiding humans often correspond with urban exploitation in mammal species, but these relationships differ by taxa and trophic guild. Variation among or within traits may be a yet untested explanation for the non-generality of species-trait relationships in cities. Using camera trap data from 1,492 sites throughout the contiguous USA in 2019, we investigated if mammal species with greater intraspecific trait variation have higher degrees of urban occupancy. We hypothesized that intraspecific trait variation would correspond with urban occupancy, but that the strength of these relationships would vary by taxonomic order due to expected phylogenetic constraints. Mean trait values (average home range size, body mass, group size, weaning age, litter size, and diet composition) varied widely across orders. The only traits that affected urban association across all species corresponded with demography (litter size), while responses across orders were more variable and informative. Mean trait values associated with home range and body size had informative relationships with urbanization for Cetartiodactyla, Rodentia, and Carnivora, while intraspecific variation in traits corresponding with diet (Carnivora), demography (Cetartiodactyla, Carnivora, Rodentia), and temporal responses to humans (Carnivora) had informative relationships to urbanization. This is the first study investigating mammalian species-level trait variation and its relationship to urban exploitation across many traits and taxa. Since natural selection requires trait variation, the variation of demographic traits, like litter size, can have significant implications for wildlife management and conservation. Our results also provide further evidence for omnivory as a form of dietary plasticity supporting urban accessibility in higher trophic guilds (e.g., Carnivora). Using this information, we can better manage and understand which species occupy and adapt to cities, thereby promoting human-wildlife coexistence.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics