Artificial selection, naturalization, and fitness: Darwin's pigeons revisited

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    Abstract

    Central in biology is the view that the commonly observed association between the phenotype and the ecology of organisms is the result of the process of natural selection. There are numerous examples where the current and/or past ecological pressures in which a trait presumably arose have been demonstrated. Less well documented, however, are cases where a species that has artificially been moved from its adaptive peak is seen to return to its ancestral state when exposed to the ancient selective regime. One of the few suggested cases is that of the feral pigeon (Columba livia), the free-living descends from domesticated, artificially selected rock pigeons. Contemporary feral pigeons are significantly closer in morphology to wild rock pigeons than to their more direct domestic ancestors, suggesting that natural selection has been reconstituting their wild phenotype. Because they still preserve some characters engendered through artificial selection during their ancestral period of domesticity, notably a tarsus that is disproportionally long for a terrestrial pigeon of its size, feral pigeons provide a rare opportunity to test whether natural selection is the process behind the reconstitution of the wild phenotype. In the present study, it is shown that feral pigeons with tarsi that depart the most from the wild phenotype appear to have limitations in the use of some food resources and, as a result, experience lower survival fitness. These findings support the view that natural selection is reconstituting the wild phenotype in feral pigeons. The possibility nonetheless remains that this process will never be fully completed. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)657-665
    JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
    Volume93
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2008

    Keywords

    • Columba livia
    • Food competition
    • Foraging strategy
    • Habitat use
    • Survival fitness
    • Terrestrial locomotion

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