Migration, mitochondria, and the yellow-rumped warbler

David P.L. Toews, Milica Mandic, Jeffrey G. Richards, Darren E. Irwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Discordance between mitochondrial and nuclear DNA has been noted in many systems. Asymmetric introgression of mitochondria is a common cause of such discordances, although in most cases the drivers of introgression are unknown. In the yellow-rumped warbler, evidence suggests that mtDNA from the eastern, myrtle warbler, has introgressed across much of the range of the western form, the Audubon's warbler. Within the southwestern United States myrtle mtDNA comes into contact with another clade that occurs in the Mexican black-fronted warbler. Both northern forms exhibit seasonal migration, whereas black-fronted warblers are nonmigratory. We investigated the link between mitochondrial introgression, mitochondrial function, and migration using novel genetic, isotopic, biochemical, and phenotypic data obtained from populations in the transition zone. Isotopes suggest the zone is coincident with a shift in migration, with individuals in the south being resident and populations further north becoming increasingly more migratory. Mitochondrial respiration in flight muscles demonstrates that myrtle-type individuals have a significantly greater acceptor control ratio of mitochondria, suggesting it may be more metabolically efficient. To our knowledge this is the first time this type of intraspecific variation in mitochondrial respiration has been measured in wild birds and we discuss how such mitochondrial adaptations may have facilitated introgression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-255
Number of pages15
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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