Dr. Marion Chatelain (PhD)

Metal exposure in passerine birds inhabiting urban and rural habitats: differential effects on phenotypic and genetic variation (DSM, CeNT)

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Much focus in evolutionary ecology research is directed to understand the causes and consequences of variability between individuals in a population: heritable variation in particular, combined with the occurrence of natural selection, will allow evolutionary change to act upon a population. Nowadays, several species inhabit urban areas: in some regions, urban land cover is the second most dominant land cover type, and c. 10% of western Europe is defined as urbanised land. Understanding how populations manage with environmental changes is an exciting questioning in evolutionary biology and its response is essential to estimate biodiversity viability in cities and think up conservation plans to reduce Human footprint on biodiversity loss. While this research area receives increasing interest among scientists, the understanding of urbanisation effects on urban populations is limited by the lack of studies 1) comparing wild populations at a multicity scale, 2) identifying environmental factors responsible for phenotypic and/or genetic variations, 3) identifying genetic adaptations responsible for phenotypic variations.

This project will complement a large-scale study of great tit (Parus major) and blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) populations sampled in 8 cities, 8 suburban forests and 4 natural reserves across Poland. I will 1) measure bird exposure to MTEs in environments with contrasted urbanisation levels and 2) conduct relevant statistical analyses to test to which extent MTE exposure is responsible for phenotypic variations and 3) changes in allele frequency among genes involved in metal detoxification and tolerance. This project will allow to answer three key research questions in the field of urban evolutionary ecology (Q): 

Q1: Does great and blue tit exposure to MTEs consistently covary with urbanisation level?

Q2: What part of great tit and blue tit phenotypic variation is explained by bird exposure to MTEs?

Q3: Is there any evidence of a non-random covariation between great and blue tit exposure to MTEs and mutation frequency at genes involved in metal detoxification?

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