Thomassen, HA, Buermann, W, Mila, B, Graham, CH, Cameron, SE, Schneider, CJ, Pollinger, JP, Saatchi, S, Wayne, RK, Smith, TB (2010). "Modeling environmentally associated morphological and genetic variation in a rainforest bird, and its application to conservation prioritization". EVOLUTIONARY APPLICATIONS, 3(1), 1-16.
To better understand how environment shapes phenotypic and genetic variation, we explore the relationship between environmental variables across Ecuador and genetic and morphological variation in the wedge-billed woodcreeper (Glyphorynchus spirurus), a common Neotropical rainforest bird species. Generalized dissimilarity models show that variation in amplified fragment length polymorphism markers was strongly associated with environmental variables on both sides of the Andes, but could also partially be explained by geographic distance on the western side of the Andes. Tarsus, wing, tail, and bill lengths and bill depth were well explained by environmental variables on the western side of the Andes, whereas only tarsus length was well explained on the eastern side. Regions that comprise the highest rates of genetic and phenotypic change occur along steep elevation gradients in the Andes. Such environmental gradients are likely to be particularly important for maximizing adaptive diversity to minimize the impacts of climate change. Using a framework for conservation prioritization based on preserving ecological and evolutionary processes, we found little overlap between currently protected areas in Ecuador and regions we predicted to be important in maximizing adaptive variation.