Date: July 14, 2015
Source: University of Kansas
Summary: Joseph Manthey's paper in Molecular Ecology has been hailed as a 'blueprint' for future isolation-by-environment studies.
Genomic sequencing of White-breasted nuthatches populating isolated mountains in Southern Arizona shows pressure to adapt to unique habitats prompts genetic branching among clades of the birds, rather than distances separating the "sky islands" where they live.
"Non-random gene flow is causing these birds to become genetically distinct based on certain environments," said Joseph Manthey, doctoral student at the University of Kansas' Biodiversity Institute. "As the nuthatches can fly, their ability to disperse suggested they'd either be able to move easily between nearby sky islands or not at all because of distances between them. So I was expecting a pattern of isolation-by-distance -- or that some sky island populations were genetically distinct due to isolation from other populations. "