Phenotypic Divergence among West European Populations of Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus: The Effects of Migratory and Foraging Behaviours

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Divergent selection and local adaptation are responsible for many phenotypic differences between populations, potentially leading to speciation through the evolution of reproductive barriers. Here we evaluated the morphometric divergence among west European populations of Reed Bunting in order to determine the extent of local adaptation relative to two important selection pressures often associated with speciation in birds: migration and diet. We show that, as expected by theory, migratory E. s. schoeniclus had longer and more pointed wings and a slightly smaller body mass than the resident subspecies, with the exception of E. s. lusitanica, which despite having rounder wings was the smallest of all subspecies. Tail length, however, did not vary according to the expectation (shorter tails in migrants) probably because it is strongly correlated with wing length and might take longer to evolve. E. s. witherbyi, which feed on insects hiding inside reed stems during the winter, had a very thick, stubby bill. In contrast, northern populations, which feed on seeds, had thinner bills. Despite being much smaller, the southern E. s. lusitanica had a significantly thicker, longer bill than migratory E. s. schoeniclus, whereas birds from the UK population had significantly shorter, thinner bills. Geometric morphometric analyses revealed that the southern subspecies have a more convex culmen than E. s. schoeniclus, and E. s. lusitanica differs from the nominate subspecies in bill shape to a greater extent than in linear bill measurements, especially in males. Birds with a more convex culmen are thought to exert a greater strength at the bill tip, which is in agreement with their feeding technique. Overall, the three subspecies occurring in Western Europe differ in a variety of traits following the patterns predicted from their migratory and foraging behaviours, strongly suggesting that these birds have became locally adapted through natural selection.

Details

Authors
  • Julio Neto
  • Luís Gordinho
  • Eduardo J. Belda
  • Marcial Marín
  • Juan S. Monrós
  • Peter Fearon
  • Ross Crates
Organisations
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Biological Sciences
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere63248
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume8
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes