How migratory populations become resident

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Migratory behaviour is rapidly changing in response to recent environmental changes, yet it is difficult to predict how migration will evolve in the future. To understand what determines the rate of adaptive evolutionary change in migratory behaviour, we simulated the evolution of residency using an individual-based threshold model, which allows for variation in selection, number of genes, environmental effects and assortative mating. Our model indicates that the recent reduction in migratory activity found in a population of Eurasian blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) is only compatible with this trait being under strong directional selection, in which residents have the highest fitness and fitness declines exponentially with migration distance. All other factors had minor effects on the adaptive response. Under this form of selection, a completely migratory population will become partially migratory in 6 and completely resident in 98 generations, demonstrating the persistence of partial migration, even under strong directional selection. Resident populations will preserve large amounts of cryptic genetic variation, particularly if migration is controlled by a large number of genes with small effects. This model can be used to realistically simulate the evolution of any threshold trait, including semi-continuous traits like migration, for predicting evolutionary response to natural selection in the wild.
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