Fluctuating selection and immigration as determinants of the phenotypic composition of a population
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- Sirkiä, P.M., Virolainen, M., Lehikoinen, E. et al. Oecologia (2013) 173: 305. doi:10.1007/s00442-013-2593-z
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It is important to identify the factors that affect the evolutionary potential of populations to respond to environmental changes. Such processes are for example the ones affecting the amount of heritable phenotypic variation in a population. We examined factors explaining the wide phenotypic variation in the genetically determined black-brown dorsal colouration of male pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) during a period of >50 years in a northern European breeding population. We demonstrate that the temperature-dependent relative breeding success of brown males predicts the inter-annual change in the proportion of the brown male phenotype. The proportion of brown males also appears to reflect immigration from Central Europe, where the brown type prevails due to local selection pressure. Warm springs in northern Central Europe had a positive effect on the proportion of the brown phenotype in the north in the early part of the study period, which suggests prolonged migration in favourable conditions. However, the association between warm springs and a high proportion of brown males has weakened from the 1950s to the present, which may explain why the proportion of the brown males in our study area decreased by a third during the period 1954 to 2008. This is likely a result of decreasing population size in Central Europe. These results demonstrate that temporal variation in environmental conditions is maintaining variation in the pied flycatcher male phenotype. They also indicate that climate warming has the potential to change the population composition both through temperature-dependent selection and environmental factors affecting long-distance immigration.