pigeons redux

John Upton asked for suggestions about “your favorite plant, animal, pathogen or natural phenomenon” as blog topics. I suggested pigeons, and John did not disappoint:

[N]ew research suggests that pigeon racers could be constantly fueling the wild populations with physical prowess-imbuing genes, helping to spawn today’s urban super-pigeons.

University of Utah researchers studied the genes of hundreds of domestic and free-living pigeons in the United States in an effort to map their family tree. What they discovered, and reported in February in the journal Current Biology, was a free flow of genes from specially bred racing pigeons into the wild.

Anywhere from five to 20 percent of racing pigeons fail to complete any given race. Some fall prey to predators. But others may simply get lost, or choose to not return home, and then blend into wild populations, where they coo and carry on and breed with feral lovers.