Evolutionary response to climate change in migratory pied flycatchers

Helm, B., Van Doren, B. M., Hoffmann, D. and Hoffmann, U. (2019) Evolutionary response to climate change in migratory pied flycatchers. Current Biology, 29(21), 3714-3719.e4. (doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.08.072) (PMID:31668621)

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Climate change is rapidly advancing spring phenology [1, 2, 3] but at different rates in different species [1, 4]. Whether these advances are solely driven by phenotypic plasticity [2, 5] or also involve evolution is hotly debated (e.g., [5, 6, 7]). In some species, including avian long-distance migrants, plastic responses to early springs may be constrained by inherited circannual timing programs [8, 9], making evolutionary adjustment the only viable mechanism for keeping pace with shifting phenology [5, 10]. This constraint may be contributing to population declines in migratory species [5, 10, 11, 12]. To test whether a migrant’s timing program has evolved [10, 12], we replicated an experimental study of the annual cycle of long-distance migratory pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) after 21 years of warming. Flycatchers are a model for studying constrained ecological responses to climate change [6, 10, 12, 13]. We show that the phase of the flycatcher circannual clock controlling spring moult, migration, and reproductive timing advanced by 9 days. A nearby wild population mirrored these changes, concurrently advancing egg-laying by 11 days. Furthermore, the time window during which wild flycatcher reproductive timing was most sensitive to ambient temperature advanced by 0.8 days year–1. These results support a role of phenotypic evolution [14] in changing spring phenology [15, 16]. We suggest that the timing programs of long-distance migratory birds may have greater adaptive potential than previously thought, leaving some scope for evolutionary rescue in a changing climate.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Helm, Dr Barbara
Authors: Helm, B., Van Doren, B. M., Hoffmann, D., and Hoffmann, U.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:Current Biology
Publisher:Elsevier (Cell Press)
ISSN (Online):1879-0445
Published Online:24 October 2019
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Ltd.
First Published:First published in Current Biology 29(21): 3714-3719.e4
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy
Data DOI:10.17632/6n38vwnwc7.1

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