Evidence for Local Adaptation in Birds

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Rohwer, Vanya
Local Adaptation , Birds , Natural Selection , Yellow Warbler , Nests , Reciprocal Transplant , Fitness
Phenotypic traits that vary geographically within species are commonly assumed to represent local adaptations to different environments. In order for local adaptation to evolve by natural selection, three conditions must be met: (1) traits must vary geographically, (2) local variants of traits must provide a fitness advantage (increased survival or reproductive success) within the local environment, and (3) local variants of traits must be heritable. In chapter two, we review evidence for local adaptation in birds. Geographic variation among populations is nearly ubiquitous, yet experimental tests of the fitness advantages of local trait variants are rare among populations of birds, presumably because of the difficulties in transporting individuals between populations. Thirty-seven studies have tested the heritability of among population variation in traits. Thirty-three of the 37 studies found some degree of heritability of variation among populations, consistent with traits diverging in response to natural selection. In chapter three, we experimentally test the fitness consequences of divergent nest morphologies of Yellow Warblers (Dendroica petechia) using reciprocal nest transplant experiments between a temperate and subarctic site in Canada. Yellow Warblers breeding at our subarctic site build larger nests constructed with more insulative materials than Yellow Warblers breeding at our temperate site, and these differences are the result of different nest building behaviours. Temperate nests transplanted to subarctic sites experienced significantly colder temperatures, and tended to suffer higher egg and nestling mortality due to climatic conditions (cold temperatures), than locally transplanted subarctic nests. Adult females breeding in subarctic sites that received temperate nests changed their incubation behaviours by taking shorter recesses than females who received locally transplanted subarctic nests. In contrast, subarctic nests transplanted to our temperate site showed no changes in nest temperature, fledgling success, or parental behaviour during incubation. We suggest that divergent selective pressures acting on Yellow Warblers in subarctic and temperate environments results in different nest building behaviours. Cold temperatures in our subarctic site likely favour increased investment in larger, insulative nests, whereas warmer temperatures at our temperate sites likely favour reduced investment in nest building, and consequently smaller nests.
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