Evolution

How the sparrow got its house

Proc. R. Soc. B. 285, 20181246 (2018).

House sparrows turn up alongside human populations just about everywhere. Even though they aren’t a domesticated species, they’ve adapted well to their lives alongside people—a new sequencing effort sheds some evolutionary light on why.

The researchers sampled DNA from European house sparrows and three of their close wild cousins. The birds likely diverged from one another about 11,000 years ago, and some unique differences in the house sparrow jumped out to the researchers. These birds have the genetic underpinnings for larger beaks and thicker skulls, along with the ability to digest amylose starches, a change also observed in domestic dogs. The results suggest house sparrows evolved into their current niche as humans transitioned to agrarian societies.

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Correspondence to Ellen P. Neff.

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Neff, E.P. How the sparrow got its house. Lab Anim 47, 268 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41684-018-0167-8

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