Rapid changes in phenotype distribution during range expansion in a migratory bird

Tómas Grétar Gunnarsson, William J. Sutherland, José A. Alves, Peter M. Potts, Jennifer A. Gill

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The capacity of species to track changing environmental conditions is a key component of population and range changes in response to environmental change. High levels of local adaptation may constrain expansion into new locations, while the relative fitness of dispersing individuals will influence subsequent population growth. However, opportunities to explore such processes are rare, particularly at scales relevant to species-based conservation strategies. Icelandic black-tailed godwits, Limosa limosa islandica, have expanded their range throughout Iceland over the last century. We show that current male morphology varies strongly in relation to the timing of colonization across Iceland, with small males being absent from recently occupied areas. Smaller males are also proportionately more abundant on habitats and sites with higher breeding success and relative abundance of females. This population-wide spatial structuring of male morphology is most likely to result from female preferences for small males and better-quality habitats increasing both small-male fitness and the dispersal probability of larger males into poorer-quality habitats. Such eco-evolutionary feedbacks may be a key driver of rates of population growth and range expansion and contraction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-416
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1727
Early online date29 Jun 2011
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2012

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