Historical DNA reveals climate adaptation in an endangered songbird

Nature Climate Change
By: , and 



To cope with climate change, species may shift their distributions or adapt in situ to changing environmental conditions. However, clear examples of genetic changes via adaptation are limited. We explore evolutionary responses to climate change in the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) through whole-genome comparisons between historical specimens, collected from 1888 to 1909 near San Diego, California, United States, and contemporary individuals from across the breeding range. Genomic analyses revealed that introgression into San Diego increased adaptive potential over time and shifted genome-wide population structure towards that of neighbouring populations. In contrast, loci linked to climate (dew point temperature and precipitation) shifted away from neighbouring populations and in a direction consistent with adaptation to climate change in southern California. This research highlights the role of admixture in facilitating adaptive shifts through its impact on genome-wide genetic variation and represents one of the few studies to document climate adaptation in a wild population.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Historical DNA reveals climate adaptation in an endangered songbird
Series title Nature Climate Change
DOI 10.1038/s41558-023-01696-3
Volume 13
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher Nature
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center, Pacific Islands Ecosys Research Center
Description 7 p.
First page 735
Last page 741
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