Feeling tired? Blame city living: Living in urban areas could have major impact on biological clocks of humans and animals, say researchers

Researchers compared the internal rhythms of blackbirds living in the countryside and in urban areas and found they differ significantly

Living in urban areas could have major impact on the biological clocks of humans and animals, a study suggests.

City life can be a draining experience compared to living in the countryside. Now scientists have proven its not just humans who are affected.

A team of Scottish scientists measured the circadian rhythms, the 24-hour cycle of biological activity, of blackbirds living in the countryside and in urban areas and found they differ significantly.

The researchers say these changes to their biological rhythms could lead to more health problems and shorter lives. The study also found that city living makes us active for longer and less rested.

The blackbirds in the city began their days earlier and ended them later, being active for around 40 minutes longer than the rural blackbirds. The internal clocks of the city-dwelling birds were “less robust” and more prone to disturbance, the researchers said.

The differences in urban birds may have developed in response to artificial light and increased noise, they said.

Adult male European blackbirds were captured from Munich and a nearby rural forest. They fitted each one with a lightweight radio-transmitter which monitored their daily activity in the wild for 10 days before the birds were recaptured.

They were then kept in light-proofed, sound-insulated chambers and their circadian rhythms were measured under constant conditions. Once the tests were complete, the birds were returned to the wild.

The study, which has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, was carried out by Glasgow University and the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany.

Barbara Helm, from Glasgow University's Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, said: “The daily cycles of activity and rest are based on biological rhythms which have evolved as an adaptation to the rising and setting of the sun.

“We found that the rhythms of urban birds in the wild differ significantly from their forest counterparts.

“On average, they began their daily activities around 30 minutes before dawn, while forest birds began their day as the sun rose. The city birds ended their days around nine minutes later, meaning they were active for about 40 minutes longer each day.

“In constant laboratory conditions, urban birds' circadian (daily) rhythms were clearly altered, running faster by 50 minutes than forest birds and being clearly less robust. There seems to be a different beat to city life.

“Our work shows for the first time that when sharing human habitats, a wild animal species has a different internal clock.

“We'd be keen to find out the costs and benefits of modifying biological rhythms in blackbirds and other animals commonly found in our cities. This may help us to better understand the challenges of coping with urban life.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore