Candidate genes for migration do not distinguish migratory and non-migratory birds
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Migratory traits in birds have been shown to have a strong heritable component and several candidate genes have been suggested to control these migratory traits. To investigate if the genetic makeup of one or a set of these candidate genes can be used to identify a general pattern between migratory and non-migratory birds, we extracted genomic sequence data for 25 hypothesised candidate genes for migration from 70 available genomes across all orders of Aves and characterised sequence divergence between migratory and non-migratory phenotypes. When examining each gene separately across all species, we did not identify any genetic variants in candidate genes that distinguished migrants from non-migrants; any resulting pattern was driven by the phylogenetic signal. This was true for each gene analysed independently, but also for concatenated sequence alignments of all candidate genes combined. We also attempted to distinguish between migrant and non-migrants using structural features at four candidate genes that have previously been reported to show associated with migratory behaviour but did not pick up a signal for migratory phenotype here either. Finally, a screen for dN/dS ratio across all focal candidate genes to probe for putative features of selection did not uncover a pattern, though this might not be expected given the broad phylogenetic scale used here. Our study demonstrates the potential of public genomic data to test for general patterns of migratory gene candidates in a cross-species comparative context, and raise questions on the applicability of candidate gene approaches in a macro-evolutionary context to understand the genetic architecture of migratory behaviour.
author list (cited authors)
Lugo Ramos, J. S., Delmore, K. E., & Liedvogel, M.