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Journal of Urban Ecology

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abundance, Tardigrada, tardigrades, urbanisation, urban ecology, novel habitat


Animals colonising urban environments are exposed to a series of novel stressors and ecological challenges, which can result in adaptations to alternative urban niches. Tardigrades are cosmopolitan invertebrates present in all types of ecosystems, including urban environments; and they can survive under extreme conditions, including periods of desiccation, thus allowing them to colonise novel harsh habitats. Tardigrades are thus a promising model to investigate the challenges and opportunities encountered by urban colonisers. Our aims were 1, to determine if tardigrade abundance in natural substrates (moss, lichen and leaf litter) differs between rural and urban sites and 2, to assess if tardigrades have successfully colonised urban substrates that are highly anthropogenic (road sediment, and material accumulated under cars and in wall crevices). Among natural substrates, we found fewer tardigrades in Cork city than in rural sites. However, in urban sites we found no differences between the number of tardigrades present in natural and anthropogenic substrates. In fact, the highest tardigrade abundances in urban samples were found in abiotic material accumulated in wall crevices. We conclude that even though urbanisation may restrict tardigrade abundance, this group of organisms can successfully colonise alternative urban substrates. More research is needed on the ability of tardigrades and other taxa to inhabit highly unusual and disturbed urban substrates effectively, and the adaptations that may take place when animals colonise such substrates.


Initially published in Journal of Urban Ecology, 2020, 1–5. DOI: 10.1093/jue/juaa008.

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