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Saltmarsh sparrow, left, Nelson's sparrow

Sep 5, 2015 9:56 AM

UNH scientists: Sparrows are producing hybrid offspring

The Associated Press

DURHAM — University of New Hampshire researchers have found that two related types of sparrows considered high priorities for conservation have been interbreeding, producing hybrid offspring.

The mixed saltmarsh sparrows and Nelson's sparrows have been found in the coastal marshes of New England.

The researchers at UNH's Agricultural Experiment Station have found that appearance alone isn't enough to identify the hybrid zone birds.

They recommend that future studies need to include DNA sampling to confirm field identifications. The saltmarsh sparrow in particular is considered globally vulnerable to extinction. In order to ensure that both species have a secure future, the first step is making sure scientists know for certain which is which.

The scientists collaborated on this project to examine the birds on the coast of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.


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