Fewer Trips to the Mediterranean

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Science  07 May 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5979, pp. 669-671
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5979.669-d

The blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) is a small passerine bird that breeds in northwestern Europe and winters in southern Europe and Africa; consequently, it has become a favored species for studying the evolutionary genetics of migration. Pulido and Berthold have found a significant reduction in migratory activity (measured as the fraction of locomotory activity that captive nocturnal migrants showed at night) in birds collected in the wild over a 13-year period (1988–2001), and observed a similar reduction in birds raised in captivity. In an artificial selection experiment in which blackcaps were bred for reduced migratory activity over four generations, migratory activity showed significant reductions, and after four generations a small proportion of individuals showed no propensity to migrate at all. Taken together, these results indicate the potential for rapid adaptive reduction in migration behaviors in response to climate change.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 107, 7341 (2010).

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