An Ecological and Evolutionary Framework for Commensalism in Anthropogenic Environments

Ardern Hulme-Beaman* (Corresponding Author), Keith Dobney, Thomas Cucchi, Jeremy B. Searle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Citations (Scopus)
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Commensalism within anthropogenic environments has not been extensively discussed, despite its impact on humans, and there is no formal framework for assessing this ecological relationship in its varied forms. Here, we examine commensalism in anthropogenic environments in detail, considering both ecological and evolutionary drivers. The many assumptions about commensalism and the nature of anthropogenic environments are discussed and we highlight dependency as a key attribute of anthropogenic commensals (anthrodependent taxa). We primarily focus on mammalian species in the anthropogenic-commensal niche, but the traits described and selective pressures presented are likely fundamental to many species engaged in intense commensal relationships with humans. Furthermore, we demonstrate that this largely understudied interaction represents an important opportunity to investigate evolutionary processes in rapidly changing environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-645
Number of pages13
JournalTrends in Ecology & Evolution
Issue number8
Early online date10 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank Jean-Denis Vigne, members of the Searle lab, and SNEEB at Cornell University for a stimulating environment and many early discussions and comments. We would also like to thank Maeve McMahon for comments on the manuscript.


  • commensalism
  • commensal species
  • anthropogenic environments
  • anthropogenic niche


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