The genomics of adaptation to climate in European great tit (Parus major) populations

Stonehouse, Joanne; Spurgin, Lewis; Laine, Veronika; Bosse, Mirte; Groenen, Martien; van Oers, Kees; Sheldon, Ben; Visser, Marcel; Slate, Jon


The recognition that climate change is occurring at an unprecedented rate means that there is increased urgency in understanding how organisms can adapt to a changing environment. Wild great tit (Parus major) populations represent an attractive ecological model system to understand the genomics of climate adaptation. They are widely distributed across Eurasia and they have been documented to respond to climate change. We performed a Bayesian genome-environment analysis, by combining local climate data with single nucleotide polymorphisms genotype data from 20 European populations (broadly spanning the species’ continental range). We found 36 genes putatively linked to adaptation to climate. Following an enrichment analysis of biological process Gene Ontology (GO) terms, we identified over-represented terms and pathways among the candidate genes. Because many different genes and GO terms are associated with climate variables, it seems likely that climate adaptation is polygenic and genetically complex. Our findings also suggest that geographical climate adaptation has been occurring since great tits left their Southern European refugia at the end of the last ice age. Finally, we show that substantial climate-associated genetic variation remains, which will be essential for adaptation to future changes.