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Genomic differentiation and local adaptation on a microgeographic scale in a resident songbird
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Elucidating forces capable of driving species diversification in the face of gene flow remains a key goal in evolutionary biology. Song sparrows, Melospiza melodia, occur as 25 subspecies in diverse habitats across North America, are among the continent’s most widespread vertebrate species, and are exemplary of many highly variable species for which the conservation of locally adapted populations may be critical to their range-wide persistence. I focus here on six morphologically distinct subspecies resident in the San Francisco Bay region, including three salt-marsh endemics and three residents in upland and riparian habitats adjacent to the Bay. I used reduced-representation sequencing to generate 2,773 SNPs to explore genetic differentiation, spatial population structure, and demographic history. Clustering separated individuals from each of the six subspecies, indicating subtle differentiation at microgeographic scales. Evidence of limited gene flow and low nucleotide diversity across all six subspecies further supports a hypothesis of isolation among locally adapted populations. This research suggests that natural selection for genotypes adapted to salt marsh environments and changes in demography over the past century have acted in concert to drive the patterns of diversification reported here. My results offer evidence of microgeographic specialization in a highly polytypic bird species long discussed as a model of sympatric speciation and rapid adaptation, and they support the hypothesis that conserving locally adapted populations may be critical to the range-wide persistence of similarly highly variable species.
Biological sciences honors program; Local Adaptation; Song Sparrows; Genetic Structure; Demographic History; Conservation Units
B.S., Biological Sciences
Bachelor of Science
dissertation or thesis