Variation in Reproductive Timing in the European Great Tit, Parus major
I am studying how birds time their reproductive systems in response to local environmental changes. For instance, the European great tit has expanded northward as temperatures have increased and these northern populations have delayed the timing of breeding, an advantageous adaption because spring conditions come later in the year with increasing latitude. It is thought that the delay occurs via an increase in the photoperiodic threshold to induce gonadal growth. We think that a delay in the activation of genes that regulate photoperiodic response in the northern population is responsible for this variation. I will investigate the timing of gene expression patterns in two populations of the great tit from different latitudes via molecular techniques such as qPCR and ICC. The ability of animals to respond to stresses in their environment will greatly shape the makeup of future communities. This study may elucidate crucial insights on species preservation and management efforts as the effects of human disturbances and consequent rising global temperatures are intensifying worldwide.
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- Mentor: George Bentley, Integrative Biology