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  1. Abstract

    Ecogeographic rules denote spatial patterns in phenotype and environment that may reflect local adaptation as well as a species’ capacity to adapt to change. To identify genes underlying Bergmann’s Rule, which posits that spatial correlations of body mass and temperature reflect natural selection and local adaptation in endotherms, we compare 79 genomes from nine song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) subspecies that vary ~300% in body mass (17 − 50 g). Comparing large- and smaller-bodied subspecies revealed 9 candidate genes in three genomic regions associated with body mass. Further comparisons to the five smallest subspecies endemic to California revealed eight SNPs within four of the candidate genes (GARNL3,RALGPS1,ANGPTL2, andCOL15A1) associated with body mass and varying as predicted by Bergmann’s Rule. Our results support the hypothesis that co-variation in environment, body mass and genotype reflect the influence of natural selection on local adaptation and a capacity for contemporary evolution in this diverse species.

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  2. 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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  3. Abstract

    Eco‐phylogeographic approaches to comparative population genetic analyses allow for the inclusion of intrinsic influences as drivers of intraspecific genetic structure. This insight into microevolutionary processes, including changes within a species or lineage, provides better mechanistic understanding of species‐specific interactions and enables predictions of evolutionary responses to environmental change. In this study, we used single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) identified from reduced representation sequencing to compare neutral population structure, isolation by distance (IBD), genetic diversity and effective population size (Ne) across three closely related and co‐distributed saltmarsh sparrow species differing along a specialization gradient—Nelson's (Ammospiza nelsoni subvirgata), saltmarsh (A. caudacuta) and seaside sparrows (A. maritima maritima). Using an eco‐phylogeographic lens within a conservation management context, we tested predictions about species' degree of evolutionary history and ecological specialization to tidal marshes, habitat, current distribution and population status on population genetic metrics. Population structure differed among the species consistent with their current distribution and habitat factors, rather than degree of ecological specialization: seaside sparrows were panmictic, saltmarsh sparrows showed hierarchical structure and Nelson's sparrows were differentiated into multiple, genetically distinct populations. Neutral population genetic theory and demographic/evolutionary history predicted patterns of genetic diversity andNerather than degree of ecological specialization. Patterns of population variation and evolutionary distinctiveness (Shapely metric) suggest different conservation measures for long‐term persistence and evolutionary potential in each species. Our findings contribute to a broader understanding of the complex factors influencing genetic variation, beyond specialist‐generalist status and support the role of an eco‐phylogeographic approach in population and conservation genetics.

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  4. Abstract

    Determining factors that shape a species’ population genetic structure is beneficial for identifying effective conservation practices. We assessed population structure and genetic diversity for Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammospiza caudacuta), an imperiled tidal marsh specialist, using 13 microsatellite markers and 964 individuals sampled from 24 marshes across the breeding range. We show that Saltmarsh Sparrow populations are structured regionally by isolation-by-distance, with gene flow occurring among marshes within ~110 to 135 km of one another. Isolation-by-resistance and isolation-by-environment also shape genetic variation; several habitat and landscape features are associated with genetic diversity and genetic divergence among populations. Human development in the surrounding landscape isolates breeding marshes, reducing genetic diversity, and increasing population genetic divergence, while surrounding marshland and patch habitat quality (proportion high marsh and sea-level-rise trend) have the opposite effect. The distance of the breeding marsh to the Atlantic Ocean also influences genetic variation, with marshes farther inland being more divergent than coastal marshes. In northern marshes, hybridization with Nelson’s Sparrow (A. nelsoni) strongly influences Saltmarsh Sparrow genetic variation, by increasing genetic diversity in the population; this has a concomitant effect of increasing genetic differentiation of marshes with high levels of introgression. From a conservation perspective, we found that the majority of population clusters have low effective population sizes, suggesting a lack of resiliency. To conserve the representative breadth of genetic and ecological diversity and to ensure redundancy of populations, it will be important to protect a diversity of marsh types across the latitudinal gradient of the species range, including multiple inland, coastal, and urban populations, which we have shown to exhibit signals of genetic differentiation. It will also require maintaining connectivity at a regional level, by promoting high marsh habitat at the scale of gene flow (~130 km), while also ensuring “stepping stone” populations across the range.

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  5. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Background Exploring hybrid zone dynamics at different spatial scales allows for better understanding of local factors that influence hybrid zone structure. In this study, we tested hypotheses about drivers of introgression at two spatial scales within the Saltmarsh Sparrow ( Ammospiza caudacuta ) and Nelson’s Sparrow ( A. nelsoni ) hybrid zone. Specifically, we evaluated the influence of neutral demographic processes (relative species abundance), natural selection (exogenous environmental factors and genetic incompatibilities), and sexual selection (assortative mating) in this mosaic hybrid zone. By intensively sampling adults (n = 218) and chicks (n = 326) at two geographically proximate locations in the center of the hybrid zone, we determined patterns of introgression on a fine scale across sites of differing habitat. We made broadscale comparisons of patterns from the center with those of prior studies in the southern edge of the hybrid zone. Results A panel of fixed SNPs (135) identified from ddRAD sequencing was used to calculate a hybrid index and determine genotypic composition/admixture level of the populations. Another panel of polymorphic SNPs (589) was used to assign paternity and reconstruct mating pairs to test for sexual selection. On a broad-scale, patterns of introgression were not explained by random mating within marshes. We found high rates of back-crossing and similarly low rates of recent-generation (F1/F2) hybrids in the center and south of the zone. Offspring genotypic proportions did not meet those expected from random mating within the parental genotypic distribution. Additionally, we observed half as many F1/F2 hybrid female adults than nestlings, while respective male groups showed no difference, in support of Haldane’s Rule. The observed proportion of interspecific mating was lower than expected when accounting for mate availability, indicating assortative mating was limiting widespread hybridization. On a fine spatial scale, we found variation in the relative influence of neutral and selective forces between inland and coastal habitats, with the smaller, inland marsh influenced primarily by neutral demographic processes, and the expansive, coastal marsh experiencing higher selective pressures in the form of natural (exogenous and endogenous) and sexual selection. Conclusions Multiple drivers of introgression, including neutral and selective pressures (exogenous, endogenous, and sexual selection), are structuring this hybrid zone, and their relative influence is site and context-dependent. 
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  6. Ribas, Camila (Ed.)
  7. 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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  8. Abstract

    Museum specimens play a crucial role in addressing key questions in systematics, evolution, ecology, and conservation. With the advent of high‐throughput sequencing technologies, specimens that have long been the foundation of important biological discoveries can inform new perspectives as sources of genomic data. Despite the many possibilities associated with analyzing DNA from historical specimens, several challenges persist. Using avian systems as a model, we review DNA extraction protocols, sequencing technologies, and capture methods that are helping researchers overcome some of these difficulties. We highlight empirical examples in which researchers have used these technologies to address fundamental questions related to avian conservation and evolution. Increasing accessibility to new sequencing technologies will provide researchers with tools to tap into the wealth of information contained within our valuable natural history collections.

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