Barn swallows live almost everywhere on the planet, recognisable by their forked tail and agility in the air. Yet while they share these characteristics, these little birds often look slightly different in each place they live—with some so distinct they’re splitting off to become new species.
Researchers at CU Boulder think that local parasites are influencing why barn swallows in Europe, the Middle East and Colorado are choosing their mates differently. Their new research, published in Evolution, finds that these parasites could be playing an important role in changing the traits displayed to attract mates early in the process of the creation of new species.
“It’s possible we haven’t appreciated just how important parasites might be in shaping the evolution of their hosts,” said lead author Amanda Hund, who conducted the research as a doctoral candidate in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department. MORE
Header image: Amanda Hund.