Investigating How Landscape and Climate Variables Influence Patterns of Adaptive Genetic Variation in White-tailed Ptarmigan

Research Project: 

RB00CNJ.26.2

Project Manager: 

Katie Langin
A White-tailed Ptarmigan, Mt. Evans, Colorado. Photo by Cameron Aldridge, USGS.
A White-tailed Ptarmigan, Mt. Evans, Colorado. Photo by Cameron Aldridge, USGS.

We are conducting a landscape genomic analysis to test factors hypothesized to influence spatial patterns of adaptive genetic variation. Genomic data are especially useful for this task because they can capture adaptive divergence along many gradients of variation (e.g., physiological, morphological) – all of which may contribute to a species’ ability to evolve in response to changing environmental conditions. We are conducting this analysis at two spatial scales: broadly across the entire species’ range and at a finer spatial scale within Colorado (the state that has the most ptarmigan habitat in the lower 48 states). We are generating genomic data and will test for outlier genomic sites that are areas of potential adaptation. Those regions will be examined to determine if they are part of or are physically linked with genes of known function (using the annotated chicken genome). We will also examine how variation in those regions of the genome are shaped by landscape variables (which may influence gene flow) and climate variables (which may influence natural selection). This work will inform future work to understand local adaptation in this high-elevation species, and to identify populations that may be adaptively divergent (e.g., adapted to warmer microclimates).