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Zoologica Poloniae

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The common hamster as a synurbist: a history of settlement in european cities

Natalia Yu. Feoktistova
  • Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, Leninsky pr., 33, Moscow, 119071, Russia
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/ Alexey V. Surov
  • Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, Leninsky pr., 33, Moscow, 119071, Russia
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/ Nikolay N. Tovpinetz
  • National Epidemiological Center of Crimea, Naberejnaya, 67, Simferopol, Crimea, 95034, Ukraine
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/ M.V. Kropotkina
  • Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, Leninsky pr., 33, Moscow, 119071, Russia
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/ Pavel L. Bogomolov
  • Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, Leninsky pr., 33, Moscow, 119071, Russia
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/ Carina Siutz / Werner Haberl
  • Ökoteam - Institute of Animal Ecology and Landscape Planning, Bergmanng. 22, 8010, Graz, Austria
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/ Ilse E. Hoffmann
Published Online: 2014-02-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/zoop-2013-0009

Abstract

Following the expansion of agriculture in the Neolithic period, the common hamster has spread throughout Europe, and occurred abundantly until the recent past. However, in the last 45 years, populations declined markedly, partly attributable to urbanization and to major changes in agricultural practices. As a result, the species has been considered endangered at international levels as well as in most European countries. At the same time, the species has established populations in large Central and Eastern-European cities such as Vienna (Austria), Simferopol (Ukraine) and Nalchik (Russia), where it inhabits green spaces such as parks, gardens, embankments and buffer strips. In an attempt to reveal factors enabling hamsters to cope with urban environments, we reviewed historical data and habitat conditions of several urban hamster populations. We suggest that supplemental food resources and reduced predation pressure were the main factors promoting urban occurrence of common hamsters in the last 30 years. Its notable adaptability may be associated with higher stress resilience, ecological opportunism, polyphagy and higher fertility compared to species relying on non-urban habitats. The phenomenon of synurbization implies coexistence of wildlife and our urban civilization, but at the same time conflicting interests in conservation and urban development. Thus, the common hamster might serve as a model species for efficient mitigation and compensation concepts in urbanism and spatial planning.

STRESZCZENIE

Chomik europejski rozprzestrzenił się w Europie w następstwie rozwoju rolnictwa w Neolicie i do niedawna występował bardzo licznie. Jednak w ciągu ostatnich 45 lat. liczebność populacji wyraźnie spadła częściowo ze względu na urba- nizację i znaczące zmiany w rolnictwie. W efekcie gatunek jest obecnie uważany za zagrożony zarówno na poziomic międzynarodowym, jak i w poszczególnych państwach europejskich. Jednocześnie jednak powstały populacje w dużych miastach Europy Centralnej i Wschodniej, na przykład w Wiedniu (Austria), Symferopolu (Ukraina) i Nalchiku (Rosja), gdzie chomik zamieszkuje tereny zielone takie jak parki, ogrody na nabrzeżach rzek i pasy buforowe. W celu ustalenia czyn- ników umożliwiających chomikom dostosowanie do warunków zurbanizowanych, stworzyliśmy przegląd danych historycznych i warunków siedliskowych w kilku miejskich populacjach chomika. Sugerujemy, że dodatkowe źródła pokarmu i zmniejszony nacisk drapieżników były głównymi czynnikami sprzyjającymi występowaniu chomika europejskiego w miastach w ciągu ostatnich 30 lat. Szczególna adaptacyjność chomika może być związana z wyższą odpornością na stres, ekologicznym oportunizmem, wszystkożcmością i wyższą płodnością w porównaniu do gatunków polegających na niczurbanizowanych siedliskach. Fenomen synurbizacji zakłada współistnienie przyrody i naszej miejskiej cywilizacji, ale w tym samym czasie przeciwstawne interesy ochrony i rozwoju urbanistycznego. Tak więc chomik europejski może posłużyć za gatunek modelowy dla idei skutecznego łagodzenia konfliktów i wyrównywania strat w urbanistyce i plano- waniu przestrzennym.

Keywords: Cricetus cricetus; urbanization; adaptation; urban population

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About the article

Published Online: 2014-02-27

Published in Print: 2013-12-01


Citation Information: Zoologica Poloniae, Volume 58, Issue 3-4, Pages 116–129, ISSN (Online) 2083-6112, ISSN (Print) 0044-510X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/zoop-2013-0009.

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