American Society of Naturalists

A membership society whose goal is to advance and to diffuse knowledge of organic evolution and other broad biological principles so as to enhance the conceptual unification of the biological sciences.

“Habitat association predicts genetic diversity and population divergence in Amazonian birds”

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Michael G. Harvey, Alexandre Aleixo, Camila C. Ribas, and Robb T. Brumfield

The habitat in which Amazonian birds occur predicts their patterns of genetic diversity and evolutionary processes

The western Amazon seen from the foot of the Peruvian Andes.<br />(Credit: Michael Harvey)
The western Amazon seen from the foot of the Peruvian Andes.
(Credit: Michael Harvey)

Organisms differ dramatically in ecology and behavior, but do these traits have any implications for their evolution? In a new paper, Harvey et al. use Amazonian birds to examine whether one ecological trait, the habitat in which a species occurs, predicts levels and patterns of genetic diversity. They examine genetic data sampled from across the genomes of over four hundred birds sampled during decades of field work in the Amazon Basin. Their results indicate that birds residing in open floodplain forest and edge habitats have less genetic diversity and divergence than those of the interior of upland forest, and that differences may reflect differences in the evolutionary processes at work in the two habitats. The study suggests that habitat association is an organismal trait that impacts evolutionary processes, and that knowledge of organismal traits therefore may be fundamental to understanding the formation of biological diversity and to tailoring conservation efforts to different species. Read the Article