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Trends Ecol Evol. 1991 Aug;6(8):254-7. doi: 10.1016/0169-5347(91)90072-6.

Genetic control of migratory behaviour in birds.

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Max-Planck-Institut für Verhaltensphysiologie, Vogelwarte Radolfzell, D-7760 Schloss Möggingen, Germany.


Although it has long been suspected that biannual migration in birds has a direct genetic basis, only in the last decade have details of the inheritance of behavioural traits such as migratory activity and directional preferences been demonstrated. A model has now been developed to estimate how inexperienced first-time migrants manage to reach their unknown winter quarters on the basis of inherited spatio-temporal programs. Furthermore, in obligate partial migrants the decision to migrate or not has been shown to have a strong genetic base. Migratoriness and sedentariness in partial migrants have been shown to have a high potential for rapid evolution. A recent set of results has suggested that novel migratory habits can evolve in less than 25 years. A possible consequence is that environmental changes, including 'greenhouse' effects, might considerably alter avian migration systems by acting on genetic variation for migratory tendencies.

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