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Global warming is impacting biodiversity by altering the distribution, abundance, and phenology of a wide range of animal and plant species. One of the best documented responses to recent climate change is alterations in the migratory behavior of birds, but the mechanisms underlying these phenotypic adjustments are largely unknown. This knowledge is still crucial to predict whether populations of migratory birds will adapt to a rapid increase in temperature. We monitored migratory behavior in a population of blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) to test for evolutionary responses to recent climate change. Using a common garden experiment in time and captive breeding we demonstrated a genetic reduction in migratory activity and evolutionary change in phenotypic plasticity of migration onset. An artificial selection experiment further revealed that residency will rapidly evolve in completely migratory bird populations if selection for shorter migration distance persists. Our findings suggest that current alterations of the environment are favoring birds wintering closer to the breeding grounds and that populations of migratory birds have strongly responded to these changes in selection. The reduction of migratory activity is probably an important evolutionary process in the adaptation of migratory birds to climate change, because it reduces migration costs and facilitates the rapid adjustment to the shifts in the timing of food availability during reproduction.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Journal publication date2010

ID: 201261