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Glob Chang Biol. 2017 Apr;23(4):1425-1435. doi: 10.1111/gcb.13522. Epub 2016 Oct 20.

Range shifts or extinction? Ancient DNA and distribution modelling reveal past and future responses to climate warming in cold-adapted birds.

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Department of Bioinformatics and Genetics, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden.
Centro de Ciencias de la Complejidad, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad de México, México.
Department of Arctic and Marine Biology, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway.
Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, SD, Inc., Hot Springs, NC, USA.
Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals, Polish Academy of Sciences, Kraków, Poland.
British Geological Survey, Nottingham, UK.
Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.
Institute for the Analysis of Change in Contemporary and Historical Societies, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.
Service of Prehistory, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium.
Department of Ecology and Genetics, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.
School of Applied Sciences, Bournemouth University, Dorset House, Talbot Campus, Poole, UK.


Global warming is predicted to cause substantial habitat rearrangements, with the most severe effects expected to occur in high-latitude biomes. However, one major uncertainty is whether species will be able to shift their ranges to keep pace with climate-driven environmental changes. Many recent studies on mammals have shown that past range contractions have been associated with local extinctions rather than survival by habitat tracking. Here, we have used an interdisciplinary approach that combines ancient DNA techniques, coalescent simulations and species distribution modelling, to investigate how two common cold-adapted bird species, willow and rock ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus and Lagopus muta), respond to long-term climate warming. Contrary to previous findings in mammals, we demonstrate a genetic continuity in Europe over the last 20 millennia. Results from back-casted species distribution models suggest that this continuity may have been facilitated by uninterrupted habitat availability and potentially also the greater dispersal ability of birds. However, our predictions show that in the near future, some isolated regions will have little suitable habitat left, implying a future decrease in local populations at a scale unprecedented since the last glacial maximum.


Lagopus ; Pleistocene; approximate Bayesian computation; climate change; colonization; extinction; palaeogenetics; phylogeography; species distribution modelling

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