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E-Response Report Summary

Project ID: 339092
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Netherlands

Mid-Term Report Summary - E-RESPONSE (Evolutionary responses to a warming world: physiological genomics of seasonal timing)

The overall aim of the ERC project is to estimate the potential for micro-evolution in natural populations by studying the genetic basis of the physiological mechanisms underlying an important life-history trait (seasonal timing) and natural selection on the same trait under climate change. Key objective of the project is to create selection lines for timing of avian reproduction in aviaries and to validate the response to artificial selection under controlled and wild conditions.
We are well underway with creating selection lines. We have genotyped 2000 wild great tit females with a known laying date that serve as a training population for the genomic selection we are using to create the selection lines. We started the lines with 27 wild broods from either very early or very late pairs and these F1 birds produced the F2 generation in 2015, which in turn produced the F3 generation in 2016. For the breeding birds we build 40 aviaries in 2014.
To validate the response to selection under controlled conditions we use 36 climate controlled aviaries. In these aviaries birds from the early and the late selection line are kept under two contrasting temperature patterns. These birds produce eggs and thus we can compare lay dates for the two lines under these two contrasting environmental conditions. For the F1 generation there was a striking difference: while birds from the late line laid later under cold than under warm conditions (as expected), birds from the early line showed a reverse pattern. For the F2, both lines laid later under cold conditions with a small difference between the lines in the predicted direction.
To validate the response to selection under wild conditions we have taken F3 eggs to the wild where the chicks hatched and fledged. Later this year we will also release adult birds in our field site. Some of these birds will breed in 2017 when we can look at lay dates.
We are also using these selection lines to identify the components of the physiology underlying timing of reproduction which can be affected by natural selection, i.e. that demonstrate genetic variation. We are measuring changes in the underlying physiology by comparing the two selections under controlled conditions. We have taken regularly blood samples to be analysed for reproductive hormones. We have also carried out terminal experiments to look at gene expression (RNA) in different tissues form birds from the late or early line, kept either at conditions mimicking a warm or a cold spring.
A final objective is to estimate selection on timing of reproduction by introducing selection-line individuals with extreme phenotypes into the wild. We have started to introduce selection line birds in the wild (see above) and when these breed in 2017 we will measure their reproductive success.

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