BCR 128: David Toews Ph.D., Warbler Hybrids & Genomics

Dr. David Toews is an NSERC Banting post-doctoral research fellow at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, working with Irby Lovette. David is interested in evolutionary biology, genomics, and molecular ecology in avian systems. Much of my research combines DNA sequencing data with other information about birds to learn about general evolutionary processes—how do new bird species evolve? What are the differences between closely related species? Recently, David have been studying hybrid zones between several species of wood warblers, trying to learn about the genes that give rise to the amazing diversity of color in this family of birds. He is also studying how long-distance migration has evolved in warblers, and what genes are responsible for warblers that have distinct migratory behaviors.

Show Notes:

  • Why are genetic and molecular studies of birds useful, for the layman?
  • Tell us in broad strokes about closely related songbird species pairs or groups that tend toward frequent hybridization.
  • What are hybrid zones?
  • How do you go about catching birds in hybrid zones?
  • The hybrid zone of the Myrtle and Audubon Warbler in British Columbia is well studied. I believe it is considered a static hybrid zone and studies of this zone led to the conclusion that the two species were actually one species. Tell us about the historic work and conclusions.
  • What does genetics tell us about the appearance of warblers, particularly feather color?
  • What is the primary reason that the Townsend’s out competes the Hermit?
  • There is one more interesting warbler hybrid situation. The Mourning and MacGillivary’s have a recently described hybrid zone in British Columbia and Manitoba. What is the story with this warbler pair?
  • Can you speculate on the reason for the evolutionary differences, evidenced by hybrid pairs or groups, in terms of the effects of past ice ages in North America on the origin species?

If your interested in learning more and continue the conversation, please leave your questions in the comment section below.

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