From quantitative genetics analysis of selection experiments we know that variation in migratory behaviour, as well as physiological and morphological adaptations to migration, are largely due to genetic differences. But so far we know nothing about the number and identity of genes involved in controlling migratory traits, or the magnitudes of their effects.
With our research we want to identify and map the genes behind the components shaping the migratory phenotype. We want to understand: What is the genetic basis of migration, and which signalling pathways are associated with variation of the migratory phenotype?
Our primary objective is to identify and characterise genetic variation and detect variation in gene expression patterns between blackcap Sylvia atricapilla populations following different migratory strategies, e.g. different migratory directions, long and short distance migration, and at least one completely sedentary population. To most efficiently address these questions, we combine high throughput sequencing techniques with state-of-the-art tracking technology, carefully designed behavioural experiments and solid knowledge of a well characterised study species.
Specifically, we identify and map the genes behind the components shaping the migratory phenotype using whoe genome sequencing approaches. Because the basis of phenotypic differences might not only lay in the sequence, we complement the sequencing approach with gene expression profiling and characterisation of chromatin modification to investigate the extent of phenotypic variation manifested by expression differences, either through slight genetic differences or regulatory epigenetic processes.