Broad-scale latitudinal patterns of genetic diversity among native European and introduced house sparrow (Passer domesticus) populations


Aaron Schrey, Fax: (813) 974-3263; E-mail:;


Introduced species offer unique opportunities to study evolution in new environments, and some provide opportunities for understanding the mechanisms underlying macroecological patterns. We sought to determine how introduction history impacted genetic diversity and differentiation of the house sparrow (Passer domesticus), one of the most broadly distributed bird species. We screened eight microsatellite loci in 316 individuals from 16 locations in the native and introduced ranges. Significant population structure occurred between native than introduced house sparrows. Introduced house sparrows were distinguished into one North American group and a highly differentiated Kenyan group. Genetic differentiation estimates identified a high magnitude of differentiation between Kenya and all other populations, but demonstrated that European and North American samples were differentiated too. Our results support previous claims that introduced North American populations likely had few source populations, and indicate house sparrows established populations after introduction. Genetic diversity also differed among native, introduced North American, and Kenyan populations with Kenyan birds being least diverse. In some cases, house sparrow populations appeared to maintain or recover genetic diversity relatively rapidly after range expansion (<50 years; Mexico and Panama), but in others (Kenya) the effect of introduction persisted over the same period. In both native and introduced populations, genetic diversity exhibited large-scale geographic patterns, increasing towards the equator. Such patterns of genetic diversity are concordant with two previously described models of genetic diversity, the latitudinal model and the species diversity model.