Henry Bodkin 1 JUNE 2016 • 12:01AM
Knowing what to do when you suspect your partner is having an affair is an age-old dilemma.
But new research suggests that sparrows have a simple, if brutal, solution: provide less food.
A new study by Imperial College London suggests male sparrows can sense when their female partners are being unfaithful and that they retaliate by gathering less food for the nest.
Although the species is supposed to be monogamous, sparrows have long been known for their lecherous tendencies.
Both Shakespeare and Chaucer linked the bird with promiscuous conduct, and even the ancient Greeks associated sparrows with Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
Published in the journal American Naturalist, the new study found that both male and female sparrows are prone to cheat, but for different reasons.
Males are unfaithful because they want to make sure they father as many chicks as they can, while females elope to mate with males of better genetic quality so they can produce stronger offspring.
A 12-year study of the sparrows on Lundy Island, in the Bristol Channel, found that male sparrows had no direct method of establishing whether all the chicks in a nest were theirs.