Research: Tracking migratory evolution

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Individual variability and versatility in an eco-evolutionary model of avian migration
Delmore KE*, Van Doren BM*, Conway GJ, Curk T, Garrido-Garduño T, Germain RR, Hasselmann T, Hiemer D, van der Jeugd HP, Justen H, Lugo Ramos JS, Maggini I, Meyer BS, Phillips RJ, Remisiewicz M, Roberts GCM, Sheldon BC, Vogl W, Liedvogel M
* Equal contributions
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 287:20201339
Male blackcap wearing a geolocator. Photo by Ben Porter.

How does bird migration evolve? We tracked 100 Eurasian Blackcaps, a species with a rich history of research, to characterize a migration transition zone and novel changes in behavior. In Austria, blackcaps transitioned from southwest to southeast autumn migration directions over a surprisingly short distance, suggesting a strong evolutionary advantage to using the “correct” direction. We discovered blackcaps from across Europe migrating northwest to winter in Britain, a new strategy that may be driven by climate change and bird feeding in British gardens. Our study provides detailed evidence for impressively variable migratory strategies in this single species.