Differentiation in neutral genes and a candidate gene in the pied flycatcher: using biological archives to track global climate change



Global climate change is one of the major driving forces for adaptive shifts in migration and breeding phenology and possibly impacts demographic changes if a species fails to adapt sufficiently. In Western Europe, pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) have insufficiently adapted their breeding phenology to the ongoing advance of food peaks within their breeding area and consequently suffered local population declines. We address the question whether this population decline led to a loss of genetic variation, using two neutral marker sets (mitochondrial control region and microsatellites), and one potentially selectively non-neutral marker (avian Clock gene). We report temporal changes in genetic diversity in extant populations and biological archives over more than a century, using samples from sites differing in the extent of climate change. Comparing genetic differentiation over this period revealed that only the recent Dutch population, which underwent population declines, showed slightly lower genetic variation than the historic Dutch population. As that loss of variation was only moderate and not observed in all markers, current gene flow across Western and Central European populations might have compensated local loss of variation over the last decades. A comparison of genetic differentiation in neutral loci versus the Clock gene locus provided evidence for stabilizing selection. Furthermore, in all genetic markers, we found a greater genetic differentiation in space than in time. This pattern suggests that local adaptation or historic processes might have a stronger effect on the population structure and genetic variation in the pied flycatcher than recent global climate changes.