Inaccuracies in the history of a well-known introduction: A case study of the Australian House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Samuel C. Andrew*, Simon C. Griffith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
156 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Modern ecosystems contain many invasive species as a result of the activity of acclimatisation societies that operated in the second half of the nineteenth century, and these species provide good opportunities for studying invasion biology. However, to gain insight into the ecological and genetic mechanisms that determine the rate of colonization and adaptation to new environments, we need a good understanding of the history of the introduced species, and a knowledge of the source population, timing, and number of individuals introduced is particularly important. However, any inaccuracies in the history of an introduction will affect subsequent assumptions and conclusions. Methods: Focusing on a single well-known species, the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), we have documented the introduction into Australia using primary sources (e.g. acclimatisation records and newspaper articles). Results: Our revised history differs in a number of significant ways from previous accounts. Our evidence indicates that the House Sparrow was not solely introduced from source populations in England but also from Germany and most strikingly also from India-with the latter birds belonging to a different race. We also clarify the distinction between the number released and the number of founders, due to pre-release captive breeding programs, as well as identifying inaccuracies in a couple of well-cited sources with respect to the range expansion of the introduced populations. Conclusions: Our work suggests that caution is required for those studying introductions using the key sources of historical information and ideally should review original sources of information to verify the accuracy of published accounts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalAvian Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2016

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Acclimatisation
  • Bottlenecks
  • Hybridisation
  • Propagule size
  • Range expansion


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