Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

The Sciences

NCBI ROFL: Where has all the road kill gone?

DiscoblogBy ncbi roflMarch 21, 2013 12:00 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

roadkill-300x225.jpg

Have you noticed that there's less road kill out there nowadays? No? Me neither, but these scientists have, and they used their 30 years of data on swallow populations (including those found squished on roads) to try to figure out why. You might think that there are simply fewer swallows out there, but you would be wrong. In fact, a smaller percentage of them are getting hit by cars. Turns out that birds with longer wings are more likely to get run over, possibly because they "have lower wing loading and do not allow as vertical a take-off as shorter, more rounded wings." As those longer-winged birds were being selected against by cars, the population as a whole evolved shorter wings and hence have become less likely to end up as road kill. Evolution in action! "An estimated 80 million birds are killed by colliding with vehicles on U. S. roads each year, and millions more die annually in Europe and elsewhere. Losses to vehicles are a serious problem for which various changes in roadway design and maintenance have been proposed. Yet, given the magnitude of the mortality reported for some species, we might expect natural selection to favor individuals that either learn to avoid cars or that have other traits making them less likely to collide with vehicles. If so, the frequency of road kill should decline over time. No information is available for any species on whether the extent of road-associated mortality has changed. During a 30-year study on social behavior and coloniality of cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) in southwestern Nebraska, we found that the frequency of road-killed swallows declined sharply over the 30 years following the birds’ occupancy of roadside nesting sites and that birds killed on roads had longer wings than the population at large."

roadkill.png

Photo: flickr/fifikins

Related content: Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Scientific abstract or action movie sequence?

Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: You put the deer tongue where?!?

Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Penguins on treadmills. Need we say more?

NCBI ROFL. Real articles. Funny subjects. Read our FAQ

!

    2 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In