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Long-distance journeys are out of fashion
Date:4/21/2010

n. Because of its large genetic variation, the researchers expected rapid adaptation to altered environmental conditions in this species, which is a model for investigating the evolution of bird migration.

The scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology wanted to find out what the mechanisms were for adjusting to global warming, whether there were measurable changes in migratory behaviour within a period with a strong temperature increase, and whether these changes, above all the reduced migratory distance, were an individual adjustment to altered environmental conditions, or whether the genetic composition of the populations would change.

During the period 1988 2001, which were years with particularly high temperatures, blackcap nestlings were taken from their nests each year (757 birds in total) and reared by hand in the lab. The seasonal changes in light-dark transition were simulated and the migratory restlessness of the inexperienced young birds was measured in autumn. The duration of their restless behaviour during the night, i.e. the fluttering and hopping along the perch corresponded approximately to the duration of the flight to their winter quarters.

The birds that were taken from their natural habitat during these 14 years showed a significant reduction in their migratory activity. In their natural habitat this would be equivalent to a shortening of flying distance. This reduction, as the researchers were able to prove, was based on a change in the genetic composition of the population, i.e. evolution.

In a second experiment, the scientists simulated the selection process they had observed in nature in the laboratory, but in "time lapse". The birds with the least migratory activity and their offspring were paired over four generations. In order to avoid inbreeding, the researchers paired 50% of this line with birds in their natural habitat that showed a particularly weak migratory restlessness. After two gen
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Contact: Leonore Apitz
apitz@orn.mpg.de
49-773-215-0174
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3

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