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Evolutionary underpinnings of microgeographic adaptation in song sparrows distributed along a steep climate gradient




Gamboa, Maybellene Pascual, author
Ghalambor, Cameron K., advisor
Funk, W. Chris, advisor
Sillett, T. Scott, committee member
Wolf, Blair O., committee member
Hufbauer, Ruth A., committee member
Morrison, Scott A., committee member

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Understanding how evolutionary processes interact to maintain adaptive variation in natural populations has been a fundamental goal of evolutionary biology. Yet, despite adaptation remaining at the forefront of evolutionary theory and empirical studies, there remains a lack of consensus about the evolutionary conditions that enable adaptation to persist in natural populations, especially when considering complex phenotypes in response to multivariate selection regimes. In my dissertation, I disentangle the evolutionary mechanisms that shape adaptive divergence in song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) distributed along a climate gradient on the California Channel Islands and nearby coastal California. First, I found evidence that climate, and neither vegetation nor selection for increased foraging efficiency, likely drive adaptive divergence in bill morphology among insular populations. Second, I used an integrated population and landscape genomics approach to infer that bill variation is indicative of microgeographic local adaptation to temperature. Lastly, I tested whether the distinct climate gradient facilitates adaptative divergence in other thermoregulatory traits and found evidence to support environmental temperatures result in fixed population differences in many complementary phenotypes, including plumage color, feather microstructure, and thermal physiology. Collectively, these results find support for microgeographic climate adaptation in a suite of complex phenotypes and demonstrate the utility of integrative approaches to infer local adaptation in natural populations. Finally, by developing a more holistic understanding of climate adaptation in natural populations, my results inform conservation management of this species of special concern.


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