Low variation in the polymorphic Clock gene poly-Q region despite population genetic structure across Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) populations

Roi Dor, Irby J. Lovette, Rebecca J. Safran, Shawn M. Billerman, Gernot H. Huber, Yoni Vortman, Arnon Lotem, Andrew McGowan, Matthew R. Evans, Caren B. Cooper, David W. Winkler

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Recent studies of several species have reported a latitudinal cline in the circadian clock gene, Clock, which influences rhythms in both physiology and behavior. Latitudinal variation in this gene may hence reflect local adaptation to seasonal variation. In some bird populations, there is also an among-individual association between Clock poly-Q genotype and clutch initiation date and incubation period. We examined Clock poly-Q allele variation in the Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), a species with a cosmopolitan geographic distribution and considerable variation in life-history traits that may be influenced by the circadian clock. We genotyped Barn Swallows from five populations (from three subspecies) and compared variation at the Clock locus to that at microsatellite loci and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). We found very low variation in the Clock poly-Q region, as >96% of individuals were homozygous, and the two other alleles at this locus were globally rare. Genetic differentiation based on the Clock poly-Q locus was not correlated with genetic differentiation based on either microsatellite loci or mtDNA sequences. Our results show that high diversity in Clock poly-Q is not general across avian species. The low Clock variation in the background of heterogeneity in microsatellite and mtDNA loci in Barn Swallows may be an outcome of stabilizing selection on the Clock locus.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere28843
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
StatePublished - 21 Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was conducted under the permits of Israel Nature Reserve Authority (permit numbers 28234-2007 and 31345-2008), UK Home Office (project license number 30/2740), Dirección de Administración de Areas Protegidas y Conservación de la Biodiversidad, Provincia Buenos Aires, Argentina (collecting permit number 6607) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Federal Bird Banding Permit number 20576).


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