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Why Environment Matters With Songbird Genes

Cara J

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Similar kinds of habitats may be more important than geographic proximity when it comes to finding which birds are of a genetic feather. A new study examining white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) in so-called “sky islands” — forest landscapes that sit on top of mountains but are geographically isolated from each other by stretches of desert — found that the birds share more genetic similarities with birds in comparable habitats to their own rather than habitats that are nearby. “It’s the first step to see how these organisms that can disperse better can move between these isolated environments,” said Joseph Manthey, a researcher in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas and the lead author of a recent study in Molecular Ecology. It has long been know that the habitats of some species can become extremely limited by fragmentation to species that have difficulty moving between them. But Manthey and his coauthor wanted to see whether they could see genetic differences in a common species of songbird that had the ability to move between the different habitats if necessary. The researchers took genetic samples from a few individual nuthatches on different sky islands in Arizona near [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/why-environment-matters-with-songbird-genes/

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