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  1. Learned traits are thought to be subject to different evolutionary dynamics than other phenotypes, but their evolutionary tempo and mode has received little attention. Learned bird song has been thought to be subject to rapid and constant evolution. However, we know little about the evolutionary modes of learned song divergence over long timescales. Here, we provide evidence that aspects of the territorial songs of Eastern Afromontane sky island sunbirds Cinnyris evolve in a punctuated fashion, with periods of stasis of the order of hundreds of thousands of years or more, broken up by evolutionary pulses. Stasis in learned songs ismore »inconsistent with learned traits being subject to constant or frequent change, as would be expected if selection does not constrain song phenotypes over evolutionary timescales. Learned song may instead follow a process resembling peak shifts on adaptive landscapes. While much research has focused on the potential for rapid evolution in bird song, our results suggest that selection can tightly constrain the evolution of learned songs over long timescales. More broadly, these results demonstrate that some aspects of highly variable, plastic traits can exhibit punctuated evolution, with stasis over long time periods.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 24, 2022
  2. Penguins are the only extant family of flightless diving birds. They currently comprise at least 18 species, distributed from polar to tropical environments in the Southern Hemisphere. The history of their diversification and adaptation to these diverse environments remains controversial. We used 22 new genomes from 18 penguin species to reconstruct the order, timing, and location of their diversification, to track changes in their thermal niches through time, and to test for associated adaptation across the genome. Our results indicate that the penguin crown-group originated during the Miocene in New Zealand and Australia, not in Antarctica as previously thought, andmore »thatAptenodytesis the sister group to all other extant penguin species. We show that lineage diversification in penguins was largely driven by changing climatic conditions and by the opening of the Drake Passage and associated intensification of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). Penguin species have introgressed throughout much of their evolutionary history, following the direction of the ACC, which might have promoted dispersal and admixture. Changes in thermal niches were accompanied by adaptations in genes that govern thermoregulation and oxygen metabolism. Estimates of ancestral effective population sizes (Ne) confirm that penguins are sensitive to climate shifts, as represented by three different demographic trajectories in deeper time, the most common (in 11 of 18 penguin species) being an increasedNebetween 40 and 70 kya, followed by a precipitous decline during the Last Glacial Maximum. The latter effect is most likely a consequence of the overall decline in marine productivity following the last glaciation.

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  3. Here we provide evidence to support an extension of the recognized distributional range of the Mountain Elaenia (Elaenia frantzii) to include southern Mexico. We collected two specimens in breeding condition in northwestern Sierra Norte de Chiapas, Mexico. Morphologic and genetic evidence support their identity asElaenia frantzii. We compared environmental parameters of records across the entire geographic range of the species to those at the northern Chiapas survey site and found no climatic differences among localities.