The evolutionary history and genomics of European blackcap migration

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Seasonal migration is a taxonomically widespread behaviour that integrates across many traits. The European blackcap exhibits enormous variation in migration and is renowned for research on its evolution and genetic basis. We assembled a reference genome for blackcaps and obtained whole genome resequencing data from individuals across its breeding range. Analyses of population structure and demography suggested divergence began ~30,000 ya, with evidence for one admixture event between migrant and resident continent birds ~5000 ya. The propensity to migrate, orientation and distance of migration all map to a small number of genomic regions that do not overlap with results from other species, suggesting that there are multiple ways to generate variation in migration. Strongly associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were located in regulatory regions of candidate genes that may serve as major regulators of the migratory syndrome. Evidence for selection on shared variation was documented, providing a mechanism by which rapid changes may evolve.
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