Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Invasive sparrows immune cells sharpen as they spread

Date:
November 20, 2013
Source:
University of South Florida (USF Health)
Summary:
Researchers find the immune systems of house sparrows at the edge of the species' range in Kenya were more attuned to finding dangerous parasites than birds from older sites in the same country. These differences may help keep invading birds from becoming sick in new areas where pathogens are more likely novel.

House Sparrow, Passer domesticus.
Credit: elharo / Fotolia

When invasive species move into new areas, they often lose their natural enemies, including the microbes that make them sick. But new research from evolutionary biologists at the University of South Florida has found that adjustments in the immune system may help house sparrows, one of the world's most common bird species, thrive in new areas.

In research published this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Biological Sciences, Associate Professor Lynn Martin and Assistant Professor Aaron Schrey from Armstrong Atlantic State University found that on the molecular level, the immune systems of house sparrows at the edge of the species' range in Kenya were more attuned to finding dangerous parasites than birds from older sites in the same country. These differences may help keep invading birds from becoming sick in new areas where pathogens are more likely novel.

"A major function of the immune system is distinguishing self from non-self, and immune cells do this with special receptors that look for molecules made by microbes that animal cells don't make," Martin said.

"In the range edge populations, sparrows' immune cells expressed a lot more of the surveillance molecule for microbe components than in old sites. So, perhaps their immune systems are more attuned to finding particularly harmful parasites in new regions where parasites are more likely novel."

USF graduate student Courtney Coon and recent Ph.D. graduate Andrea Liebl, now post-doctoral researcher with the University of Exeter-Cornwall, were part of the research team.

Martin's lab has focused much of their efforts understanding how invasive species spread across the globe. Their main study species, also known as the English sparrow, spread rapidly across North and South America as well as Australia and now Africa and Southeast Asia since they were introduced from Western Europe more than 150 years ago.

Aggressive and often crowding out native species, the small but charismatic songbird is both adored, having been mentioned in Shakespeare's sonnets, and reviled for its voracious and destructive appetite for grain. In the United States, the house sparrow was often the target of organized eradication programs and is now implicated in the declines of other species because of its role in cycles of certain diseases.

Martin has focused on Kenya's sparrow population because it is one of the world's newest invasions of sparrows. Martin's newest research looked at how interactions between hosts and parasites influenced the success of host species' introductions and range. Although other factors were important to predicting immune system variation, such as whether individuals were infected by malaria, the best predictor of was population age: birds from newer sites searched more for parasites than birds from old sites.

The ultimate goal of Martin's research is to understand what gives invasive species their edge, which could help government agencies focus resources on eradicating those species with the most potential to do damage to natural environments and influence how species are managed with respect to climate change and other anthropogenic factors such as urbanization.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of South Florida (USF Health). The original article was written by Vickie Chachere. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. L. B. Martin, C. A. C. Coon, A. L. Liebl, A. W. Schrey. Surveillance for microbes and range expansion in house sparrows. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2013; 281 (1774): 20132690 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.2690

Cite This Page:

University of South Florida (USF Health). "Invasive sparrows immune cells sharpen as they spread." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131120111958.htm>.
University of South Florida (USF Health). (2013, November 20). Invasive sparrows immune cells sharpen as they spread. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131120111958.htm
University of South Florida (USF Health). "Invasive sparrows immune cells sharpen as they spread." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131120111958.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A U.S. doctor has tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, as the worst-ever outbreak continues to grow. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The New York Times Backs Pot Legalization

The New York Times Backs Pot Legalization

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The New York Times has officially endorsed the legalization of marijuana, but why now, and to what end? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins