Understanding history to better understand the future

Demographic fluctuations and lack of genetic structure in populations of European turtle doves make them vulnerable and relevant for conservation. 

GBIF-mediated data resources used : 56,602 species occurrences
European turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur)

European turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur) by Bruno Durand. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Current changes in climate as well as human activities are affecting the evolution and distribution of species worldwide. Understanding fluctuations throughout history can help predict similar changes in the future and focus conservation efforts.

In a recent study, researchers combined genetic sequence analyses and niche modelling to characterize the demographic history and population structure of the European turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur), a long-distance migrant, recently designated as vulnerable.

The results of the genetic study revealed historical population fluctuations with a drastic early-Holocene expansion, and a more recent contraction, both of which are supported by the suitable habitats as shown by niche models constructed using GBIF-mediated occurrences and paleoclimatic data. The researchers found no evidence of genetic structures being linked to migratory flyways.

The combined results suggest that all turtle dove populations across Europe are equally vulnerable and relevant for conservation.

Calderón L, Campagna L, Wilke T, Lormee H, Eraud C, Dunn JC, Rocha G, Zehtindjiev P, Bakaloudis DE, Metzger B, Cecere JG, Marx M and Quillfeldt P (2016) Genomic evidence of demographic fluctuations and lack of genetic structure across flyways in a long distance migrant, the European turtle dove. BMC Evolutionary Biology. Springer Nature 16(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12862-016-0817-7.