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Photo credit: Jens Rydell

Genetics of orientation in the European blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)

Miriam Liedvogel

MPRG Behavioural Genomics, MPI Evolutionary Biology, Germany

Understanding the genetic architecture of migratory traits, such as orientation, is a longstanding goal in avian biology. Blackcaps are ideal for this work as populations within this species exhibit dramatic differences in migratory behaviour and little else. Accordingly, any genetic difference we find between these populations is likely related to migration. There is also a tremendous body of research on the genetic basis of migration in this system. The key objectives of our work are to (i) characterize phenotype, population structure and demographic history of our study species the blackcap and (ii) identify sequence variants and signaling pathways that are associated with variation of the migratory phenotype in our focal species.

For accurate phenotype characterization, we use light-level geolocators to track birds on migration. Our current work focuses along the central European migratory divide/hybrid zone, where we aim to directly evaluate hypotheses relevant to evolution, ecology and conservation. We interpret this insight within a solid framework of bird migration to ultimately integrate both phenotypic and genomic data to answer important questions in evolutionary ecology and genetics.

In my talk, I will give an overview on state-of-the-art knowledge of migration genetics in the blackcap, covering insight from classical studies on selection and cross-breeding experiments, via quantitative genetics approaches, to finally introducing novel insight from recent work using a de novo assembled genome of the blackcap as reference for large-scale demographic study with different phenotypes across their breeding range.

 

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