A comparison of the nutritional physiology and gut microbiome of urban and rural house sparrows (Passer domesticus)

Alice Gadau, Meli'sa S. Crawford, Roman Mayek, Mathieu Giraudeau, Kevin J. McGraw, Corrie M. Whisner, Christina Kondrat-Smith, Karen L. Sweazea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Urbanization influences food quality and availability for many wild species, but our knowledge of the consequences urbanization has on the nutritional physiology of these animals is currently limited. To fill this gap, we captured House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) from rural and urban environments and hypothesized that increased access to human refuse in urban areas may significantly alter the gut microbiome and nutritional physiology of Sparrows. While there were no significant differences in circulating triglycerides or free glycerol concentrations between populations, urban birds had significantly greater blood glucose concentrations, which suggests greater circulating glucagon concentrations, accessibility to carbohydrates, and/or higher rates of gluconeogenesis in an urban setting. Rural birds had significantly more plasma uric acid, suggesting that they may metabolize more proteins or experience lower inflammation than urban birds. Rural birds also had significantly higher liver free glycerol concentrations, indicating that they metabolize more fat than urban birds. There were no significant differences in the relative abundance of gut microbial taxa at the phyla level between the two populations, but linear discriminant analysis effect size (LEfSe) showed that urban House Sparrows were more enriched with class- and order-level microbes from the phylum Proteobacteria, which are implicated in several mammalian intestinal and extra-intestinal diseases. These findings demonstrate that urbanization significantly alters the nutritional physiology and the composition of the gut microbiome of House Sparrows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110332
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part - B: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • Avian
  • Gut microbiome
  • Nutrition
  • Physiology
  • Rural
  • Urban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology


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