Divergence in evolutionary potential of life history traits among wild populations is predicted by differences in climatic conditions

Stéphane Chantepie* (Corresponding author), Anne Charmantier, Boris Delahaie, Frank Adriaensen, Erik Matthysen, Marcel E Visser, Elena Álvarez, Emilio Barba, Markku Orell, Ben Sheldon, Elena Ivankina, Anvar Kerimov, Sébastien Lavergne, Céline Teplitsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Short-term adaptive evolution represents one of the primary mechanisms allowing species to persist in the face of global change. Predicting the adaptive response at the species level requires reliable estimates of the evolutionary potential of traits involved in adaptive responses, as well as understanding how evolutionary potential varies across a species’ range. Theory suggests that spatial variation in the fitness landscape due to environmental variation will directly impact the evolutionary potential of traits. However, empirical evidence on the link between environmental variation and evolutionary potential across a species range in the wild is lacking. In this study, we estimate multivariate evolutionary potential (via the genetic variance–covariance matrix, or G-matrix) for six morphological and life history traits in 10 wild populations of great tits (Parus major) distributed across Europe. The G-matrix significantly varies in size, shape, and orientation across populations for both types of traits. For life history traits, the differences in G-matrix are larger when populations are more distant in their climatic niche. This suggests that local climates contribute to shaping the evolutionary potential of phenotypic traits that are strongly related to fitness. However, we found no difference in the overall evolutionary potential (i.e., G-matrix size) between populations closer to the core or the edge of the distribution area. This large-scale comparison of G-matrices across wild populations emphasizes that integrating variation in multivariate evolutionary potential is important to understand and predict species’ adaptive responses to new selective pressures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-42
JournalEvolution Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Feb 2024


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