Rapid morphological changes as agents of adaptation in introduced populations of the common myna (Acridotheres tristis)

Tali Magory Cohen, Richard E. Major, R. Suresh Kumar, Manoj Nair, Kyle M. Ewart, Mark E. Hauber, Roi Dor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Invasive species present an opportunity to test the association between selective forces and adaptive morphological traits because these species can experience rapid changes when introduced to new environments. One such invader is the common myna (Acridotheres tristis), a broadly ranging avian species that has been introduced on most continents and many oceanic islands. Here, we studied morphological variability in native and introduced populations of common mynas to identify the key environmental variables correlated with local phenotypic variation during biological invasions. In particular, we aimed to determine whether similar selective pressures acted on populations in the native range and the introduced ranges, and whether the same factors shaped morphological variation in different introduced populations. We recorded eight morphological measurements from 1,331 individuals across sites throughout most of the common myna’s range, as well as climatic, topographic and anthropogenic environmental data, sex and age of individuals, and years since local introduction. We found inconsistent signals of morphological adaptation in the native population, representing different patterns between females and males. Conversely, urbanization was a significant explanatory factor of phenotypic shifts in introduced populations, especially with regards to foraging-related traits. Moreover, we found that adaptation occurred differently across two focal introduced populations (Sydney, Australia and Israel). Therefore, caution is required in studies relating to evolutionary adaptations and predictions made regarding characteristics of invasive populations within a limited range of their introduced ranges. Our results also indicate a major role for urbanization in impacting the shape and size of foraging-related features in this broadly-distributed invasive species, emphasizing the impact of human-induced environmental changes upon the trajectories of biological invasions and, ultimately, their effects on native biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-462
Number of pages20
JournalEvolutionary Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank Eyal Deri, Mark Katz, Ohad Hatozfe, Giselle Hazan, Doron Nissim, Gonen Bahir, Ori Linial, Asaf Kaplan, Eran Hymes, Gal Bismuth, Amir Shafir, Zehava Siegal and other rangers of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and Manju Siliwal, Yotam Ghendler, Yoav Motro, Yonatan Veronski, Asaf Yitzhaki, Sveta Weismann, Darren Burns, Snir Halle, Hala Kasis, Imam Hussain, Mohammad Rafi, Deven Mehta, Hareendra Baraiya, Sarabjeet and Ankita Bhatt and the many colleagues and volunteers who helped collect samples.

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Tel Aviv University Global Research & Training Fellowship in Medical and Life Sciences (GRTF) fund, The Smaller-Winnikow Fellowship Fund for Environmental Research, The Rieger Foundation-Jewish National Fund fellowship, and the Heredity Fieldwork Grant of the Genetics Society UK. This research was also supported by Grant No. 2017285 from the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF; to RD and MEH). RSK and MN were provided an in-house grant of the Wildlife Institute of India for undertaking fieldwork in India. MEH was supported by the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg (Institute for Advanced Study), Germany, during the preparation of the manuscript. RSK and MN were provided an in-house grant of the Wildlife Institute of India for undertaking fieldwork in India.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG part of Springer Nature.


  • Common myna
  • Invasive species
  • Morphology
  • Spatial sorting
  • Urbanization


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