Synanthropes are animals that have learned to live and thrive with humans. Frequently, these are animals that humans come to detest. Pigeons, crows, ants- animals that thrive despite our destruction of their home.
“We create and destroy habitat, we shape genomes, we aid the worldwide movement of other species. And yet we seem disappointed and horrified when those plants and animals respond by adapting to our changes and thriving in them”- Courtney Humphries, Superdove
Synanthropes are not pets that we keep in our house, but wild animals that have come to benefit off humans in many ways. A good coastal example is the sea gull; a bird that can hunt for food on its own-but why bother when humans so readily throw it away around them? They have become skilled scavengers of the piers and coastal towns that have taken over their natural home.
If sea gulls needed a pristine condition to survive, they would have become extinct decades ago. But the opposite has happened, their numbers have boomed because they can eat our trash. Some people find it appaling. I find our human behavior of being so trashy, appalling. The sea gulls just learned to live with the cards they were dealt.
Humans can’t live on the water, but we certainly love living next to it, and the effects of our lifestyle end up in the ocean. Because of that there are other marine synanthropes.
Another recognizable one is the California Sea Lion. Although perfectly fine to hunt on their own, sea lions are excellent at stealing from spear fishermen, and from boat fishermen. They have been known to jump on boats to escape predators, and to have a rest. Large populations of sea lions exist next to large cities, and in the case of San Francisco, even taken over a whole Pier (39). They make rookeries on beaches that are protected because of man made break walls, and can be spotted lounging on the beach beside tourists.
Octopus are another coastal inhabitant that seem to be doing just fine with human activity. Just search online for videos of octopus using tools or debris found in the water because of humans and you can easily find them. Octopus use our discarded bottles and styrofoam cups to hide and lay eggs in. In fact, if I ever remove debris from the water, I check it thoroughly for an octopus resident before I remove it. REEF.org found that Giant Pacific Octopus were more likely to live in areas closer to urban cities than away from it at certain depths, and speculated it was because of the increased presence of ocean debris. As a fan of spotting Octopus in the ocean, I have to say I’m glad the debris didn’t wipe them out, and in fact encourages them.
What do these synanthropes show us? They show us something about ourselves, and something about the way we have come to see nature. “The first step is to stop thinking of nature as something far away that we must save from someone else and start seeing it all around us. The first step is open our eyes to the existence of nature in our daily lives.”-Nathanael Johnson, Unseen City
Can you think of other marine synanthropes?
Information gleaned and considered from: