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The road to opportunities: Landscape change promotes body size divergence in a highly mobile species

AuthorsCamacho, Carlos ; Saéz, Pedro; Palacios, Sebastián ; Molina, Carlos; Potti, Jaime
KeywordsHuman-induced environmental change
Phenotypic divergence
Population differentiation
Issue Date2016
PublisherOxford University Press
CitationCurrent Zoology, 62(1): 7-14 (2016)
AbstractLandscape change provides a suitable framework for investigating population-level responses to novel ecological pressures. However, relatively little attention has been paid to examine the potential influence of landscape change on the geographic scale of population differentiation. Here, we tested for morphological differentiation of red-necked nightjars Caprimulgus ruficollis breeding in a managed property and a natural reserve situated less than 10 km apart. At both sites, we also estimated site fidelity over 5 years and quantified the potential foraging opportunities for nightjars. Breeding birds in the managed habitat were significantly larger in size—as indexed by keel length—than those in the natural one. However, there were no significant differences in wing or tail length. Immigration from neighboring areas was almost negligible and, furthermore, no individual (out of 1130 captures overall) exchanged habitats between years, indicating strong site fidelity. Food supply for nightjars was equally abundant in both habitats, but the availability of foraging sites was remarkably higher in the managed property. As a result, nightjars—particularly fledglings—in the latter habitat benefited from increased foraging opportunities in relation to those in the natural site. It seems likely that the fine-scale variation in nightjar morphology reflects a phenotypic response to unequal local conditions, since non-random dispersal or differential mortality had been determined not to be influential. High site fidelity appears to contribute to the maintenance of body-size differences between the two habitats. Results from this nightjar population highlight the potential of human-induced landscape change to promote population-level responses at exceedingly small geographic scales.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cz/zov008
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