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Local specialization and maladaptation in the Mediterranean blue tit (Parus caeruleus)

Abstract

Although the evolutionary interplay between gene flow and local adaptation of organisms in heterogeneous environments has been widely discussed from a theoretical point of view, few empirical studies have been designed to test predictions on the consequences of habitat patchiness on the evolution of life history traits. Using blue tits in Mediterranean habitat mosaics as a model, we defined two nested levels of habitat heterogeneity: an inter-regional level which compares two isolated landscapes (mainland, southern France vs the island of Corsica), and an intra-regional level which compares two habitat types within each landscape (deciduous vs evergreen trees). Deciduous habitats are more common than evergreen habitats on the mainland whereas the opposite is true on the island. Results suggest that: (1) on a regional scale, each population is specialized to the more common habitat, i.e. life history traits have evolved in such a way that breeding success is high; (2) in the less common habitats within each landscape, birds are clearly mistimed because they mismatch the best period of food availability, and hence their breeding success is lower; and (3) the density of the populations and the morphometry of the birds support the model of ideal despotic distribution. These results, which are supported by preliminary data on the genetic variation and gene flow of populations in the mainland landscape, are consistent with a source-sink model of population structure within each landscape. They are discussed in the framework of metapopulation theory and habitat selection models.

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Dias, P.C., Blondel, J. Local specialization and maladaptation in the Mediterranean blue tit (Parus caeruleus). Oecologia 107, 79–86 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00582237

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00582237

Key words

  • Blue tit
  • Habitat heterogeneity
  • Maladaptation
  • Source-sink
  • Habitat selection