Plasticity and adaptation in a house sparrow meta-population

University of Helsinki - Finland

Rapid environmental change poses an important threat to species and ecosystems. Acclimation through phenotypic plasticity and adaptation through genetic change could help some species cope with environmental change but these processes are not well understood yet. Information about the patterns of genetic effects that influence phenotypic traits is fundamental to our understanding of how these traits evolve but this is still generally unknown in wild populations. The fast development of sequencing technologies and bioinformatics is opening great opportunities to address these questions.

This project is part of a long term-study, conducted since 1993 in a metapopulation of house sparrows (Passer domesticus) from Norway. As new genomic resources (10k and 200k SNP arrays) have recently become available for this species it is now possible to study the causative factors of genetic variation and adaptation.

Subproject 1: Insights into the genetic architecture of phenotypic traits in two passerine bird species.

For this study we estimated heritability of morphological and sexually selected traits, partitioned additive genetic variance between chromosomes and identified SNPs associated with phenotypic traits in two passerines (in collaboration with NTNU and Uppsala University).

Silva CNS, McFarlane SE, Hagen IJ, Rönnegård L, Billing AM, Kvalnes T, Kemppainen P, Rønning B, Ringsby TH, Sæther BE, Qvarnström A, Ellegren H, Jensen H, Husby A (2017). Insights into the genetic architecture of morphological traits in two passerine bird species. Heredity. 119: 197–205.

Subproject 2: Plasticity and adaptation of house sparrows to rapid environmental change.

For this project I am using statistical approaches (such as GLMM) to study the responses of sparrow’s life history traits (clutch size, clutch number and timing of breeding) to environmental change (e.g. temperature). This project is done in collaboration with the Jensen Lab at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

house sparrow's eggs house sparrow house sparrow female