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Comparative Study
. 2018 Jan 10;8(1):394.
doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-18718-8.

Phenotypic Divergence Despite Low Genetic Differentiation in House Sparrow Populations

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Free PMC article
Comparative Study

Phenotypic Divergence Despite Low Genetic Differentiation in House Sparrow Populations

Shachar Ben Cohen et al. Sci Rep. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Studying patterns of phenotypic variation among populations can shed light on the drivers of evolutionary processes. The house sparrow (Passer domesticus) is one of the world's most ubiquitous bird species, as well as a successful invader. We investigated phenotypic variation in house sparrow populations across a climatic gradient and in relation to a possible scenario of an invasion. We measured variation in morphological, coloration, and behavioral traits (exploratory behavior and neophobia) and compared it to the neutral genetic variation. We found that sparrows were larger and darker in northern latitudes, in accordance with Bergmann's and Gloger's biogeographic rules. Morphology and behavior mostly differed between the southernmost populations and the other regions, supporting the possibility of an invasion. Genetic differentiation was low and diversity levels were similar across populations, indicating high gene flow. Nevertheless, the southernmost and northern populations differed genetically to some extent. Furthermore, genetic differentiation (F ST) was lower in comparison to phenotypic variation (P ST), indicating that the phenotypic variation is shaped by directional selection or by phenotypic plasticity. This study expands our knowledge on evolutionary mechanisms and biological invasions.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
(a,b) Results of one-way ANOVA for two morphological traits, body mass and wing length. Heavy line within each box represents the sample median. Lower and upper limits of each box represent the 25% and 75% quartiles, respectively. Limits of vertical lines (whiskers) represent the min and max values, excluding outliers. Letters above boxes (A, B, C) represent significant differences in post-hoc analyses. Eilat (A) significantly differs from both the Negev (B) and Center, North (C), while the Center does not differ from the North. (c,d) Results of regression analyses of two morphological traits, body mass and wing length, plotted against latitude.
Figure 2
Figure 2
(a) Results of one-way ANOVA for right cheek brightness. Heavy line within each box represents the median. Limits of boxes represent the 25% and 75% quartiles, and limits of whiskers represent min and max values excluding outliers. Letters below boxes (A, B) represent significant differences in post-hoc analyses. Eilat (A) significantly differs from all other three regions, which are not different from one another (b) Results of regression analysis of right cheek brightness plotted against latitude.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Variation in attributes of neophobia between regions. Higher score represents reduced neophobic response. Significant difference found in post-hoc Dunn’s Test between the region of Eilat and the North (represented by letters above boxes). Eilat (A) significantly differs from the North (B), but not from the Negev and Center (AB).
Figure 4
Figure 4
Map of sampling localities across Israel.

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References

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