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Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,140 ratings  ·  162 reviews
From evolutionary biologist Menno Schilthuizen, a book that will make you see yourself and the world around you in an entirely new way

*Carrion crows in the Japanese city of Sendai have learned to use passing traffic to crack nuts.

*Lizards in Puerto Rico are evolving feet that better grip surfaces like concrete.

*Europe’s urban blackbirds sing at a higher pitch than their r
Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by Picador USA (first published February 8th 2018)
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Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, reviewed
"Nature is not a place to visit. It is home." -- Gary Snyder

"While we have been trying to save the world’s crumbling pre-urban ecosystem, we have been ignoring the fact that nature has already been putting up the scaffolds to build novel, urban ecosystems for the future." -- Menno Schilthuizen, Ph.D., in "Darwin Comes to Town"


I love this book. There's a reason I highlighted 350 passages -- I had to stop myself from highlighting all of it -- and though I finished it in October I still read
Popular science at its best here. Prof. Schilthuizen has a relaxed style of writing that is wonderfully easy to read. At the same time, he sets out some serious and thought-provoking stuff, about the astonishing power of natural selection and how it is driving evolution amongst urban wildlife.

The author comments early on that when humans talk about “nature” we almost invariably mean those much-reduced parts of the world where human influence is still small. He adds though, that by 2030 around 10
Dec 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Having read the The Beak of the Finch, about scientists who spent thirty years in the Galapagos gathering data that demonstrated that evolution occurs over a very short time span given the right conditions, I am absolutely prepared to accept Menno Schilthuizen's premise that evolution is occurring rapidly in cities, driven by a variety of man-made factors, including different environments and the presence of exotic plants and animals. The evidence is clear that the urban environments of mankind ...more
Nostalgia Reader
4.5 stars.

It was after much debate that I put in a request for this book on NetGalley. The cover art is amazing and anything involving nature and evolution always sound interesting. But I was so convinced that this book would make me mad and try to convince me humans are some sort of savior to nature by building cities or some such radical view. The possibility of it being quite dense in subject matter was another doubt.

But that cover art kept calling me back. I got approved for a copy, and when
May 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction-btr
4.5 stars for this one. As an anthropologist myself I always have a soft spot for books about evolution of species and studies into how urbanization is speeding the former. This book had both of my interest in it, therefore this book was an easy read for, the simplicity in which the book is written makes it easy for anyone to read and learn from this book. All in all this book is a study into how our interaction with different species are altering them while also posing a question....How is it a ...more
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good popular science book that walks the fine line between being extremely accessible but not dumbing down the thesis or the science supporting it. Schilthuizen presents an interesting overview of urban evolution—how plants, insects, birds, and animals have adapted to manmade/urban environments—in an extremely digestible way that doesn't skirt the fact that this is serious business. The tone tends to default a little onto the side of breeziness, focusing on urban fauna and flora's succ ...more
Kam Yung Soh
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature, biology
A fascinating and easy to read book about one area that tends to be ignore: the evolution of organisms in a new landscape that is rapidly growing in size around the world: cities and urban landscapes. In numerous chapters organised by sections, the author shows what organisms are taking advantage of the new urban ecological niches opened up by human cities, what evolution has been doing to adapt organisms to an urban life and what might be in store for the future.

The first section gives an over
A surprisingly fun - and chatty - book of urban biodiversity and evolution. As the world changes, and more and more people migrate around the world and into cities, there will be more “rural” species that more into the city and become “urban” species. At the this point we also can’t get away from the reality that humans have contributed to these changes as we have helped transport species from their native niches all over the globe. Very interesting.
Karina Szczurek
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Illuminating and funny - a joy to read.
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: green
There is "nature", and there is the city. It is the largely unstated presumption, in most discussion of biology and ecology, that the two are separate, and so all of the territory which is subsumed by the latter, is lost to the former. This is, of course, not really true; lots of life passes back and forth between the city and the countryside, even the parts of the countryside with no humans living in it, and therefore the city is very much part of nature. But, a gut level aversion to how urbani ...more
Camelia Rose
Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Menno Schilthuizen is an optimist and pragmatist regarding the ongoing human vs nature (other species). If you skip the first and last chapter, and if you desperately want to believe humans are not the worst enemies of nature, you probably will feel happier after reading this book. I can understand the author's worry that rightwing anti-intellectuals or climate-change-deniers may misinterpret his book.

Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution is about the evolution brought on b
Sep 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Schilthuizen takes a look at how the urban environment influences the evolution of animals and plants. He shows that evolution can happen rather quickly, within a few generations, rather than over thousands of years. He also shows that humans are a part of the environment and not separate from it. Each chapter is fairly short with numerous fascinating examples, making this a quick and interesting reading experience.

Also recommended: Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of E
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In a world constantly changing to meet the ever-increasing needs of humanity, it is simple to say that today’s cities and urban centres would be unrecognizable and impossible to imagine in years gone past. Indeed, there is a constant, low-thrumming hum throughout social media, news sites, and conversations about how humanity is literally changing the face of the planet, and whether this is to the detriment of the thousands of other species with which we share our homes. Opinions are divided, man ...more
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-history
This book was such a blast! With my crap memory, I won’t remember anything in this one year from today, but I’m more of a “big picture” guy. This means that the ideas he presents will stay with me and help to shape my understanding of the world.

I’ll never be able to look at another city creature in the same way as I wonder how our man-made geography is changing how they behave. I read somewhere (not in this book) of how it takes somewhere around 25,000 years for changes in human behavior to make
Tom Roth
This was a very good and interesting read. Chapters are not too long, and it is very well written. I think it is very accessible to people who do not have a background in biology. However, even for biologists it is very interesting, mainly because it concerns quite a new field in evolutionary biology. The book contains many famous examples of human influence on animal evolution and behavior, such as color change in peppered moths and milk bottle opening by great tits.
For me, the most interestin
112th book for 2018.

It's in the age of the Anthropocene urban spaces will become the major drivers of evolution.

A very accessible book detail the remarkable ways that cities are now influencing the evolution of creatures great and small. Did you know for instance there are three (3!) species of mosquito that have evolved to live in the London Underground? Or that the European Blackbird has over the last couple of hundred years has made significant steps towards evolving into a separate species f
Moses Hetfield
I enjoyed this book, which had some interesting examples of urban evolution, but I was not entirely convinced by it, despite endorsements on the back cover from Elizabeth Kolbert and Robert Sapolsky, two biology writers I greatly admire.

Darwin Comes to Town examines the ways in which rapid natural selection and genetic evolution occur among organisms as they adapt to urban settings. While Schilthuizen documents some astonishing adaptations that animals have to urban environments, he often fails
Twenty articles by a biologist, an urban ecologist who likes cities.

While we humans space our generations about twenty-eight years apart, lesser lifeforms, such as birds and insects, reproduce much more quickly, leading to a faster rate of evolution, as documented by the author in this book, which covers flora and fauna that come into contact with humans and the urban world.

Eleven years ago the number of people in the world living in urban areas surpassed those in rural areas. The United State
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a good read. Author Menno Schilthuizen writes in an engaging and interesting manner, making this book very accessible to the layperson. I always appreciate when a science book is written in an effective, easy-to-understand fashion.
The book's thesis is that, contrary to much of the scientific orthodoxy - evolution sometimes acts very quickly, with phenotypic changes evident inside a few generations, and population-wide changes manifesting in much less time than previously thought. Schil
Boni Aditya
This book is an extremely good piece of research. A well researched book combining relevant research across many centuries and culmination of research papers published by biologies and ecologists around the globe. The Author does a good job putting all of them together in a neat package.

This is my first book about evolutionary biology, and the genre was recommended in the Book Alchemy, along with evolutionary psychology. Though the author gives a distinct structure to the book, one section evolv
Feb 18, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Classified as outside of my comfort zone. Recommended for people who like science but haven't invested much time in it. So we (humans) have changed the environment pretty drastically. Our cities are pretty much alien environments. This book doesn't say whether it's right or wrong, but just says how interesting it is that nature has evolved at an accelerated pace to survive these weird places. Lots of examples here; from the moths who evolved to be dark when England's trees were covered with soot ...more
Aaron Lee
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting and very readable book about how plants and animals adapt and evolve in response to living in an urban environment. Lots of great specific examples involving lizards, moths, birds, mice and more. Definitely learned a lot reading this. Highly recommended if you enjoy books about nature.
Stephen Flanagan
Really interesting glimpse into how human activities especially in urban environments have been impacting the evolutionary path of some specialist organisms, such as mosquitos and crows. Would have been 4 stars, if not for a couple of references to pop culture like Facebook. This such a tiny thing, but it's a pet peeve of mine :) ...more
Kim Staley
If you love science and reading fascinating research about animals and plants, then this is the book for you! Or, it was the book for me anyway. I was initially hoping to read a bit more about the larger critters such as foxes, raccoons and coyotes that live in cities, but it seems that more research has been done on smaller life forms. It didn't really matter to me in the long run, because I found Schilthuizen to be an engaging writer who kept me riveted with the ways that life so often finds a ...more
Rachit Singh
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book delivers well on what is promised; to give a new outlook towards our Urban lifestyle. Many interesting supporting examples of real research being done by evolutionary biologists are presented here. There is a nice flow to the book which makes all the chapters well-linked and interesting to flip through. Apart from the perspicuous scientific writing, the author also blends in witty sentences making the text enjoyable and easy to digest even for non-science folks.
Questions related to urba
Elle Maruska
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book so much! Schilthuizen writes about urban impact on evolution with warmth and engaging humor, breaking down complex concepts in ways that are accessible but never derivative. There were parts of this book that made me laugh out loud and all of it made me think about how we're so quick to delineate between "city" and "nature" when really cities and nature are interrelated. From blackbirds to mice to mosquitoes to plants, creatures that share our urban spaces are changing the wa ...more
Jun 25, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
First of all, this book was not a complete waste of time. It had it’s moments for me. But apart from the chapter about light pollution, it felt like a 300 pages long introduction.

I got this book because of my fascination with urban fauna and the inner urge to discover more about my fellow animal neighbors but this book merely conveys vague information while only scratching the surface of most matters. Wich is why I would recommend this book to people that only share a hazy notion of this topic
John Isles
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As species are driven to extinction by human overpopulation and our overuse of the Earth's resources, there is hope yet that life will survive our onslaught. In our cities new species are evolving and diversifying. This book (which I read in the Kindle version) entertainingly narrates the worldwide story, and it's one we should all become more familiar with. Alien intruders to our cities should generally be welcomed rather than eradicated, because they are helping to form new ecosystems in our m ...more
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, nonfiction
A pleasingly nuanced and data-driven perspective on the way human activity coexists with and transforms the Earth's biodiversity! Definitely happy and fascinated with the range of species and types of traits discussed as examples of distinct urban selective pressures; as well as by the carefulness with which Schulthuizen explains the experimental paradigms used to investigate said examples. I was less thrilled by the dip into rhetorically-styled anthropomorphism during the chapters dealing with ...more
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Easy to read and very fascinating. Examples used feel slighlty biased towards birds and insects but I LOVE birds so that was a positive to me. Pulled together alot of biology concepts I knew alot about and put them into a new context of cities such as sexual selection, island biogeography and epigenetics. This book feels hopeful, in a time where species and biodiversity is intensely threatend by climate change. This book demonstrates that although the city represents a loss, it can also create a ...more
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“These constantly arriving foreign inhabitants form the first of at least four explanations for the high biodiversity urban naturalists are encountering in their cities. A second explanation is the fact that the places where people like to build their settlements, which then grow into cities, are often biologically rich areas to begin with.” 1 likes
“A third source of urban biological richness is, in fact, the loss of good-quality habitat immediately outside the city perimeter.” 1 likes
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