The London Underground – Animal Life in the Deepest, Darkest Depths of the City

Most people that live in, or visit, London end up on the tube at some point or another. This is the most convenient way to get to any destination in the city, providing you actually manage to figure out a route to where you are going, using the awfully confusing underground map. We are not the only ones travelling through these corridors daily though. There is an ever-increasing population animals that reside in the passages, and cracks, between the walls of the tube stations. Most of them do their best to avoid the commuters, and vice versa.

shutterstock_295110965Rodents

The population of mice in the underground has been estimated to be about 500, 000. They can be seen running between the tracks regularly at Waterloo and Oxford Circus Stations, where the foraging seems to be a bit better. Even though they normally mind their own business, these mice have been known to exhibit aggressive tendencies towards travellers. Fortunately, the rats that reside alongside them have never reportedly attacked anybody. There are some that have been said to be the size of cats but they, fortunately, continue to be wary of the human traffic that passes them every day.

The London Underground Mosquito

Probably first getting trapped underground when the stations were being constructed, this mosquito was first noticed when it started feasting on people who were using the tube as a bomb shelter during WW2. It was given the unbelievably imaginative name of ‘London Underground Mosquito.’ Since then the species has been studied and compared to the mosquitos of the same genus, culex, that reside above ground.

shutterstock_225727018Culex mosquitos are normally bird-biting, but the ones underground have developed a taste for other types of blood (probably due to the scarcity of birds in the tube), feeding on the mice, rats and humans that they frequently come into contact with. There were other differences noticed as well. Normally mosquitos hibernate during the winter, but since there is not a noticeable change in seasons below the surface, the London Underground Mosquito has ceased this habit.

Unlike other culex mosquitos they no longer need lots of open space to mate, and are able to do so in closed areas. In the last 100 years they have evolved into an entirely new subspecies, no longer being able to interbreed with the ones still living on the surface. It stretches the imagination to wonder how much they will change in the coming century.

Other animals

Even though their numbers are not as large as the rodents and mosquitos in the tube, there are other animals that reside there. Foxes live in various parts of the underground, residing in ‘tunnel fluff’ which is made from a combination of clothing fibres and human hair that accumulates.
Snakes, tortoises, a variety of bats, as well as a wealth of spiders and insects have their abode in our beloved transport system. There has even been the sighting of a deer reported. The poor animal had obviously strayed very far from his intended path…let’s hope he eventually made his way out without first getting caught in any headlights.

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