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Creators/Authors contains: "Benham, Phred M."

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  1. Abstract

    Combating the current biodiversity crisis requires the accurate documentation of population responses to human‐induced ecological change. However, our ability to pinpoint population responses to human activities is often limited to the analysis of populations studied well after the fact. Museum collections preserve a record of population responses to anthropogenic change that can provide critical baseline data on patterns of genetic diversity, connectivity, and population structure prior to the onset of human perturbation. Here, we leverage a spatially replicated time series of specimens to document population genomic responses to the destruction of nearly 90% of coastal habitats occupied by the Savannah sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) in California. We sequenced 219 sparrows collected from 1889 to 2017 across the state of California using an exome capture approach. Spatial–temporal analyses of genetic diversity found that the amount of habitat lost was not predictive of genetic diversity loss. Sparrow populations from southern California historically exhibited lower levels of genetic diversity and experienced the most significant temporal declines in genetic diversity. Despite experiencing the greatest levels of habitat loss, we found that genetic diversity in the San Francisco Bay area remained relatively high. This was potentially related to an observed increase in gene flow into the Bay Area from other populations. While gene flow may have minimized genetic diversity declines, we also found that immigration from inland freshwater‐adapted populations into tidal marsh populations led to the erosion of divergence at loci associated with tidal marsh adaptation. Shifting patterns of gene flow through time in response to habitat loss may thus contribute to negative fitness consequences and outbreeding depression. Together, our results underscore the importance of tracing the genomic trajectories of multiple populations over time to address issues of fundamental conservation concern.

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  2. Animals developing at high elevation experience a suite of environmental challenges, most notably the low partial pressure of oxygen ( P O 2 ) in ambient air. In low P O 2 , bird species with high-elevation ancestry consistently demonstrate higher hatching success than lowland counterparts, suggesting highland birds are adapted to restricted O 2 (hypoxia) in early development. Haemoglobin (Hb), the critical oxygen-transport protein, is a likely target of P O 2 -related selection across ontogeny since Hb isoforms expressed at distinct developmental stages demonstrate different O 2 affinities. To test if Hb function is under P O 2 -related selection at different ontogenetic stages, we sampled a songbird, the hooded siskin ( Spinus magellanicus ), across two approximately 4000 m elevational transects. We sequenced all of the loci that encode avian Hb isoforms, and tested for signatures of spatially varying selection by comparing divergence patterns in Hb loci to other loci sampled across the genome. We found strong signatures of diversifying selection at non-synonymous sites in loci that contribute to embryonic ( α π , β H ) and definitive ( β A ) Hb isoforms. This is the first evidence for selection on embryonic haemoglobin in high-elevation Neoaves. We conclude that selection on Hb function at brief, but critical stages of ontogeny may be a vital component to high elevation adaptation in birds. 
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  3. Ribas, Camila (Ed.)
  4. Abstract

    Natural history collections provide an unparalleled resource for documenting population responses to past anthropogenic change. However, in many cases, traits measured on specimens may vary temporally in response to a number of different anthropogenic pressures or demographic processes. While teasing apart these different drivers is challenging, approaches that integrate analyses of spatial and temporal series of specimens can provide a robust framework for examining whether traits exhibit common responses to ecological variation in space and time. We applied this approach to analyze bill morphology variation in California Savannah Sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis). We found that bill surface area increased in birds from higher salinity tidal marshes that are hotter and drier. Only the coastal subspecies,alaudinus,exhibited a significant increase in bill size through time. As with patterns of spatial variation,alaudinuspopulations occupying higher salinity tidal marshes that have become warmer and drier over the past century exhibited the greatest increases in bill surface area. We also found a significant negative correlation between bill surface area and total evaporative water loss (TEWL) and estimated that observed increases in bill size could result in a reduction of up to 16.2% in daily water losses. Together, these patterns of spatial and temporal variation in bill size were consistent with the hypothesis that larger bills are favored in freshwater‐limited environments as a mechanism of dissipating heat, reducing reliance on evaporative cooling, and increasing water conservation. With museum collections increasingly being leveraged to understand past responses to global change, this work highlights the importance of considering the influence of many different axes of anthropogenic change and of integrating spatial and temporal analyses to better understand the influence of specific human impacts on population change over time.

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  5. Abstract

    Theory suggests that different taxa having colonized a similar, challenging environment will show parallel or lineage-specific adaptations to shared selection pressures, but empirical examples of parallel evolution in independent taxa are exceedingly rare. We employed comparative genomics to identify parallel and lineage-specific responses to selection within and among four species of North American sparrows that represent four independent, post-Pleistocene colonization events by an ancestral, upland subspecies and a derived salt marsh specialist. We identified multiple cases of parallel adaptation in these independent comparisons following salt marsh colonization, including selection of 12 candidate genes linked to osmoregulation. In addition to detecting shared genetic targets of selection across multiple comparisons, we found many novel, species-specific signatures of selection, including evidence of selection of loci associated with both physiological and behavioral mechanisms of osmoregulation. Demographic reconstructions of all four species highlighted their recent divergence and small effective population sizes, as expected given their rapid radiation into saline environments. Our results highlight the interplay of both shared and lineage-specific selection pressures in the colonization of a biotically and abiotically challenging habitat and confirm theoretical expectations that steep environmental clines can drive repeated and rapid evolutionary diversification in birds.

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