Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona

Local adaptation

Science Research Evolutionary Ecology Local adaptation

A topic of increasing interest in recent years is the role of habitat heterogeneity in generating local adaptation at small geographic and temporal scales. However, and in spite of this interest, knowledge on the proximate mechanisms of ecological speciation and how exactly adaptation translates into reproductive isolation, is still quite scarce.

Research projects

  • Evolutionary responses of birds under three Global Change scenarios: Climate Change, Urbanization and Invasive Species

    Joan Carles Senar
    Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación PID2020-114907GB-C21
    4 years

    Contemporary evolution is often associated with human activities, because it forces animals to adapt to rapid changes in the environment.  Global change, therefore, is an ideal experimental scenario and an opportunity to study contemporary evolution and local adaptation.  The main aim of this project is to analyse these evolutionary patterns in terms of three of the main drivers of global change: Climate Change, Urbanization and Invasive Alien Species.

    Two of the main processes related to evolution will allow a population to cope with and adapt to its changing environment: phenotypic plasticity and adaptive microevolutionary selection.  Phenotypic plasticity is a process that should normally act rapidly and within relatively short timescales, in order to allow individuals to adjust their phenotypes to reproduce and survive under new conditions. The key question, however, is knowing to what extent animals are sufficiently plastic and flexible to cope with global change.  However, evolutionary change will be required through adaptive microevolutionary divergence in the medium and long term, to allow a population to adapt to the new conditions. However, despite the fact that an increasing number of examples are being published on the effect of climate change in animal species, very little information is available on the nature (adaptive or not) and the origin (plasticity versus evolution) of the observed responses to global change in wild birds.  The second general goal of this project is to explore these responses further.

    In this project, we are focusing on three global change scenarios. In the climate change scenario, we analyse how the local adaptation patterns of Crossbills to mountain pine cones are affected by the fruiting patterns of the nearby Austrian pine, with mass masting being exploited opportunistically by part of the population. Since climate change is affecting the frequency of mast years, we want to test the changes in local adaptation patterns.  In the Urbanization scenario, we want to carry out tests with birds in the family Paridae, such as how differential survival or phenotype-dependent movements can explain the phenotypic differences between urban and forest populations. In the invasive alien species scenario, we want to test the hypothesis of spatial classification and test survival selection in relation to morphology and behaviour, which can accelerate local adaptation patterns in invasive bird species.



    JC Senar (MCNB)
    J Quesada (MCNB)
    M Björklund (Uppsala University, Sweden)
    B Hatchwell (Sheffield University, UK)
    A Charmantier (CNRS, Montpellier, France)
    A Gregoire (CNRS, Montpellier, France)
    S Tenan (CNR, Venice, Italy)

    Financed by Ministry of Science and Innovation PID2020-114907GB-C21:

  • Local adaptation and Sexual Selection: personality, plumage coloration and bird song as models

    Joan Carles Senar
    Ministerio de Economia y Competitividad CGL2012-38262
    4 years

    A topic of increasing interest in recent years is the role of habitat heterogeneity in generating local adaptation at small geographic and temporal scales. However, and in spite of this interest, knowledge on the proximate mechanisms of ecological speciation and how exactly adaptation translates into reproductive isolation, is still quite scarce. Sexual selection is increasingly recognized as one of the processes that modulate local adaptation. One of the main aims of our Project is to adopt an integrative perspective incorporating both ecological inte actions and sexual selection to analyze processes of local adaptation. We focus on four model systems where we have previously shown local differentiation at small spatiotemporal scales: Great tits in urban habitats, Crossbills and Citril finches in the Pyrenees and Collared flycatchers in heterogeneous forests close to Budapest (Hungary). We focus on three model traits in addition to morphology: personality, plumage coloration and bird song. These three individual traits often interact with each other and may be the subject of both local adaptation and sexual selection processes. We aim at differentiating the role of these traits and their components for local adaptation by comparing features that are likely media ted by genetic factors / condition dependence (e.g. personality, colour or song rate) and features that are more likely shaped by rapid cultural evolution or that display high flexibility (e.g. song composition).

    Researcher:   Dr. Juan Carlos Senar

    Number of participants: 6

    J. C. Senar (MCNB)

    F. Uribe (MCNB)

    J. Quesada (MCNB)

    T. Montalvo (Agecia Salut Publica Barcelona)

    J. J. Negro (Estación Biologica Doñana)

    L. Garamszegi (Estación Biologica Doñana)