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Evolutionary consequences of human disturbance in a rainforest bird species from Central Africa

Authors

  • THOMAS B. SMITH,

    1. Center for Tropical Research, Institute of the Environment, University of California Los Angeles, 619 Charles Young Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA,
    2. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Los Angeles, 621 Charles Young Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA,
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  • BORJA MILÁ,

    1. Center for Tropical Research, Institute of the Environment, University of California Los Angeles, 619 Charles Young Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA,
    2. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Los Angeles, 621 Charles Young Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA,
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  • GREGORY F. GRETHER,

    1. Center for Tropical Research, Institute of the Environment, University of California Los Angeles, 619 Charles Young Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA,
    2. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Los Angeles, 621 Charles Young Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA,
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  • HANS SLABBEKOORN,

    1. Behavioural Biology (IMP), Leiden University, 2300 A Leiden, The Netherlands,
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  • IREM SEPIL,

    1. Center for Tropical Research, Institute of the Environment, University of California Los Angeles, 619 Charles Young Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA,
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  • WOLFGANG BUERMANN,

    1. Center for Tropical Research, Institute of the Environment, University of California Los Angeles, 619 Charles Young Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA,
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  • SASSAN SAATCHI,

    1. Center for Tropical Research, Institute of the Environment, University of California Los Angeles, 619 Charles Young Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA,
    2. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91109, USA
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  • JOHN P. POLLINGER

    1. Center for Tropical Research, Institute of the Environment, University of California Los Angeles, 619 Charles Young Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA,
    2. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Los Angeles, 621 Charles Young Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA,
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Thomas B. Smith, Fax: (310) 825–5446; E-mail: tbsmith@ucla.edu

Abstract

Relatively little attention has been directed towards understanding the impacts of human disturbance on evolutionary processes that produce and maintain biodiversity. Here, we examine the influence of anthropogenic habitat changes on traits typically associated with natural and sexual selection in the little greenbul (Andropadus virens), an African rainforest bird species. Using satellite remote-sensing and field survey data, we classified habitats into nonhuman-altered mature and human-altered secondary forest. Mature rainforest consisted of pristine rainforest, with little or no human influence, and secondary forest was characterized by plantations of coffee and cacao and high human impacts. Andropadus virens abundance was higher in secondary forest, and populations inhabiting mature rainforest were significantly larger in wing and tarsus length and bill size; characters often correlated with fitness. To assess the extent to which characters important in sexual section and mate choice might be influenced by habitat change, we also examined differences in plumage colour and song. Plumage colour and the variance in plumage luminance were found to differ between forest types, and song duration was found to be significantly longer in mature forest. The possible adaptive significance of these differences in traits is discussed. Despite relatively high levels of gene flow across habitats, amplified fragment length polymorphism analysis revealed that a small proportion of high-FST loci differentiated mature from secondary forest populations. These loci were significant outliers against neutral expectations in a simulation analysis, suggesting a role for divergent selection in differentiation across habitats. A distance-based redundancy analysis further showed that forest type as defined by remote-sensing variables was significantly associated with genetic dissimilarities between habitats, even when controlling for distance. The observed shifts in morphology, plumage and song were consistent with divergent selection on heritable variation, but a role for plasticity cannot be ruled out. Results suggest that anthropogenic habitat changes may have evolutionary consequences, with implications for conservation and restoration.

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