Urban impacts on oxidative balance and animal signals

Pierce Hutton, Kevin McGraw

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Though many animal ornaments and signals are sensitive to and encode information about the oxidative balance (OB) of individuals (e.g., antioxidant supplies/activity, reactive oxygen species, cellular oxidative damage/repair), often the environmental and/or physiological sources of such OB are unknown. Urban development is among the most recent, pervasive, and persistent human stressors on the planet and impacts many environmental and physiological parameters of animals. Here we review the mechanistic underpinnings and functional consequences of how human urbanization drives antioxidant/oxidative status in animals and how this affects signal expression and use. Although we find that urbanization has strong negative effects on signal quality (e.g., visual, auditory, chemical) and OB across a range of taxa, few urban ecophysiological studies address signals and oxidative stress in unison, and even fewer in a fitness context. We also highlight particular signal types, taxa, life-histories, and anthropogenic environmental modifications on which future work integrating OB, signals, and urbanization could be centered. Last, we examine the conceptual and empirical framework behind the idea that urban conditions may disentangle signal expression from honesty and affect plasticity and adaptedness of sexually selected traits and preferences in the city.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number54
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - May 19 2016


  • Animal communication
  • Antioxidants
  • Dishonest signals
  • Oxidative stress
  • Pro-oxidants
  • Signal honesty
  • Urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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