Birds of Indian Subcontinent

The genetics of bird migration: stimulus, timing, and direction

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:1992
Authors:Berthold, P, Helbig, AJ
Date Published:1992
ISBN Number:1474-919X
Keywords:Emberizidae, Erithacus, Erithacus rubecula, Melospiza, Melospiza melodia, Merula, Muscicapidae, Passerella, Passerella melodia, Sylvia, Sylvia atricapilla, Sylviidae, Turdidae, Turdus, Turdus maximus, Turdus merula, Zonotrichia, Zonotrichia melodia
Abstract:The extent to which genetic factors are directly involved in the control of bird migration and the mode of inheritance involved has been studied systematically over the past 15 years in the Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla by cross-breeding and selective breeding. Results have also been obtained from a few experimental and field studies on Robins Eritfiacus rubecula, Blackbirds Turdus merula and Song Sparrows Melospiza melodia. Cross-breeding of migrants with nonmigrants has resulted in the partial transmission of migratory activity into the F, generation indicating that the urge to migrate is inherited and is based on a multilocus system with a threshold for expression. Migratoriness and sedentariness in obligate partial migrants is probably inherited in a similar way, suggesting that the decision to migrate also has a strong genetic basis. Both traits can be selected to phenotypic uniformity within 3–6 generations indicating an extremely high evolutionary potential. Orientation behaviour can also be transmitted to the offspring of a nonmigratory population by cross-breeding. Cross-breeding individuals with different migratory directions produced offspring with phenotypically intermediate directional preferences, suggesting that the migratory direction is also a predominantly heritable character. In the current development of novel migratory habits in those Central European Blackcaps that now winter in the British Isles, the inheritance of the novel migratory direction may be crucial. Genetic variation in migratory events seems to be sufficient to allow for many microevolutionary processes.
Short Title:Ibis
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