Black swans living in a park in Melbourne, Australia, are – like urban populations of many other species – bolder than their rural counterparts. But new research suggests that these personality differences are partly determined by genes that are linked to differences in human personality. Parks have many attractions for swans – few predators, extensive lawns for grazing and extra food provided by people.
“If swans are bold and can tolerate humans, it would very much pay them to settle in urban environments,” said Wouter van Dongen of Australia’s Victoria University, who led the research. Intriguingly, almost all of the urban swans possessed a variant of a gene that, in humans, has been dubbed the ‘restless gene’ or ‘wanderlust gene.’ “People with a certain variant of this gene tend to be more exploratory in diverse situations,” van Dongen told BBC Wildlife. “What I find fascinating is that the same principles can also be applied to animals.”