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Evolution of altitudinal migration in passerines is linked to diet


Pageau, Claudie et al. (2020), Evolution of altitudinal migration in passerines is linked to diet, Dryad, Dataset,


Bird migration is typically associated with a latitudinal movement from north to south and vice versa. However, many bird species migrate seasonally with an upslope or downslope movement in a process termed altitudinal migration. Globally, 830 of the 6579 Passeriformes species are considered altitudinal migrants and this pattern has emerged multiple times across 77 families of this order. Recent work has indicated an association between altitudinal migration and diet, but none have looked at diet as a potential evolutionary driver. Here, we investigated potential evolutionary drivers of altitudinal migration in passerines around the world by using phylogenetic comparative methods. We tested for evolutionary associations between altitudinal migration and foraging guild and primary habitat preference in passerines species worldwide. Our results indicate that foraging guild is evolutionarily associated with altitudinal migration, but this relationship varies across zoogeographical regions. In the Nearctic, herbivorous and omnivorous species are associated with altitudinal migration, while only omnivorous species are associated with altitudinal migration in the Palearctic. Habitat was not strongly linked to the evolution of altitudinal migration. While our results point to diet as a potentially important driver of altitudinal migration, the evolution of this behaviour is complex and certainly driven by multiple factors. Altitudinal migration varies in its use (for breeding or moulting), within a species, population, and even at the individual level. As such, the evolution of altitudinal migration is likely driven by an ensemble of factors, but this study provides a beginning framework for understanding the evolution of this complex behaviour.