Signatures of adaptive divergence among populations of an avian species of conservation concern

Shawna J. Zimmerman*, Cameron L. Aldridge, Kevin P. Oh, Robert S. Cornman, Sara J. Oyler-McCance

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Understanding the genetic underpinning of adaptive divergence among populations is a key goal of evolutionary biology and conservation. Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) is a sagebrush obligate species with a constricted range consisting of seven discrete populations, each with distinctly different habitat and climatic conditions. Though geographically close, populations have low levels of natural gene flow resulting in relatively high levels of differentiation. Here, we use 15,033 SNP loci in genomic outlier analyses, genotype–environment association analyses, and gene ontology enrichment tests to examine patterns of putatively adaptive genetic differentiation in an avian species of conservation concern. We found 411 loci within 5 kbp of 289 putative genes associated with biological functions or pathways that were overrepresented in the assemblage of outlier SNPs. The identified gene set was enriched for cytochrome P450 gene family members (CYP4V2, CYP2R1, CYP2C23B, CYP4B1) and could impact metabolism of plant secondary metabolites, a critical challenge for sagebrush obligates. Additionally, the gene set was also enriched with members potentially involved in antiviral response (DEAD box helicase gene family and SETX). Our results provide a first look at local adaption for isolated populations of a single species and suggest adaptive divergence in multiple metabolic and biochemical pathways may be occurring. This information can be useful in managing this species of conservation concern, for example, to identify unique populations to conserve, avoid translocation or release of individuals that may swamp locally adapted genetic diversity, or guide habitat restoration efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1661-1677
Number of pages17
JournalEvolutionary Applications
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • adaptive divergence
  • local adaptation
  • sage-grouse
  • signature of selection


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