Spend enough time in New York City, and there won’t be much that can surprise you. Two-hour lines to get a donut? Yeah, that makes sense. Mummified bat corpses in the alley behind the local church? Of course, that’s where mummified bat corpses belong. Human feces inside a Chinese takeout box on the floor of the subway station? Not my first choice, but I get it.
Some of New York’s smaller, hairier residents—its mice—seem to be adapting to the city in a similar way, evolutionarily. A team of scientists analyzed the genomes of white-footed mice captured in New York and New York-adjacent parks to see whether they’d evolved given the pressures of city life. It turns out that the urban critters have probably been adapting, genetically, to their new city diets—which may or may not include cheeseburgers and pizza.
“Human infrastructure causes habitat loss and fragmentation and changes resource availability, novel species interactions occur because human movements and commerce introduce a diverse array of nonnative species, and human activity increases exposure to chemical, light, and noise pollution,” the study’s authors wrote in the paper first published last year but now updated with peer review edits on the bioarXiv preprint server. “These changes lead to unique pressures in novel urban habitats that may rapidly drive evolutionary change over short timescales.”
The researchers gathered 24 mice from across three city locations, including Central Park, the New York Botanical Gardens, and Flushing Meadows. They found another 24 rural mice which instead came from state parks in New York’s Hudson Valley, the Northeastern end of Long Island, and the Kittatinny Mountains in New Jersey (which are really pretty, by the way). The researchers then extracted, sequenced, and analyzed genetic material from the rodent’s livers and compared them.
They found that there was less genetic diversity in the city mice than in the rural mice in general. The scientists also noticed some slight changes to some specific genes dealing with the mice digestion in the city dwellers. “Our evidence suggests that the evolution of mitochondrial and metabolic processes has been important to the success of P. leucopus living in NYC’s urban forests,” the authors write.
Basically, these findings raise the possibility that the mice have been evolving based on their lower quality but more plentiful urban diet. The paper’s first author, now a postdoctoral researcher at Metabiota, thinks it could be pizza and cheeseburgers, but its other author, associate professor Jason Munshi-South at Fordham, thinks it’s more likely a difference in the availability of certain kinds of plants and insects.
As the authors point out, the sample only includes eight mice each from six locations and there’s obviously more work to be done. Additionally, making any conclusion would require further studies of the urban mouse’s diet. One researcher, Hop Hoekstra from Harvard, also pointed out to New Scientist that the specific genes should be analyzed more closely. But she did say that this is “a really cool way to study evolutionary change, sort of as it’s happening,”
Jobs, who created Apple in 1976 with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne, introduced three of the company’s most iconic products in its history: the Macintosh in 1984, the iPod in 2001, and the iPhone in 2007.
His passing resulted in an outpouring of grief from family, friends, coworkers, Apple customers, and leaders around the world, ranging from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to former U.S. President Barack Obama.
Jobs actually had a 12-year hiatus from Apple starting in 1985. During that time, he founded computer and software company NeXT, and funded Lucasfilm’s computer graphics division eventually known as Pixar.
Apple acquired NeXT in 1997, bringing Jobs back to the company. Under his leadership, Apple went from flirting with bankruptcy in the late 1990s to becoming the world’s most valuable company just before he died.
Apple named the Steve Jobs Theater in his honor at its new Apple Park headquarters in Cupertino, California. Cook reflected on Jobs’ legacy and showmanship during Apple’s first-ever event at the theater last month.
Steve meant so much to me and so much to all of us. There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t think about him. Memories have especially come rushing back as we prepared for today and this event. It’s taken some time, but we can now reflect on him with joy, instead of sadness. Steve’s spirit and timeless philosophy on life will always be the DNA of Apple. His greatest gift, his greatest expression of his appreciation for humanity, would not be a single product. Rather, it would be Apple itself. We dedicated this theater to Steve because we loved him, and because he loved days like this, where we can share our latest products and ideas with the world.