(Micro)evolutionary Changes and the Evolutionary Potential of Bird Migration

  • Liedvogel M
  • Delmore K
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Seasonal migration is the yearly long-distance movement of individuals between their breeding and wintering grounds. Individuals from nearly every animal group exhibit this behavior, but probably the most iconic migration is carried out by birds, from the classic V-shape formation of geese on migration to the amazing nonstop long-distance flights undertaken by Arctic Terns Sterna paradisaea. In this chapter, we discuss how seasonal migration has shaped the field of evolution. First, this behavior is known to turn on and off quite rapidly, but controversy remains concerning where this behavior first evolved geographically and whether the ancestral state was sedentary or migratory (Fig. 7.1d, e). We review recent work using new analytical techniques to provide insight into this topic. Second, it is widely accepted that there is a large genetic basis to this trait, especially in groups like songbirds that migrate alone and at night precluding any opportunity for learning. Key hypotheses on this topic include shared genetic variation used by different populations to migrate and only few genes being involved in its control. We summarize recent work using new techniques for both phenotype and genotype characterization to evaluate and challenge these hypotheses. Finally, one topic that has received less attention is the role these differences in migratory phenotype could play in the process of speciation. Specifically, many populations breed next to one another but take drastically different routes on migration (Fig. 7.2). This difference could play an important role in reducing gene flow between populations, but our inability to track most birds on migration has so far precluded evaluations of this hypothesis. The advent of new tracking techniques means we can track many more birds with increasing accuracy on migration, and this work has provided important insight into migration's role in speciation that we will review here.




Liedvogel, M., & Delmore, K. (2018). (Micro)evolutionary Changes and the Evolutionary Potential of Bird Migration (pp. 109–127). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-91689-7_7

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