Standing genetic variation as the predominant source for adaptation of a songbird

Yu Ting Lai, Carol K.L. Yeung, Kevin E. Omland, Er Li Pang, Yu Hao, Ben Yang Liao, Hui Fen Cao, Bo Wen Zhang, Chia Fen Yeh, Chih Ming Hung, Hsin Yi Hung, Ming Yu Yang, Wei Liang, Yu Cheng Hsu, Cheng Te Yao, Lu Dong, Kui Lin, Shou Hsien Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Citations (Scopus)


What kind of genetic variation contributes the most to adaptation is a fundamental question in evolutionary biology. By resequencing genomes of 80 individuals, we inferred the origin of genomic variants associated with a complex adaptive syndrome involving multiple quantitative traits, namely, adaptation between high and low altitudes, in the vinous-throated parrotbill (Sinosuthora webbiana) in Taiwan. By comparing these variants with those in the Asian mainland population, we revealed standing variation in 24 noncoding genomic regions to be the predominant genetic source of adaptation. Parrotbills at both high and low altitudes exhibited signatures of recent selection, suggesting that not only the front but also the trailing edges of postglacial expanding populations could be subjected to environmental stresses. This study verifies and quantifies the importance of standing variation in adaptation in a cohort of genes, illustrating that the evolutionary potential of a population depends significantly on its preexisting genetic diversity. These findings provide important context for understanding adaptation and conservation of species in the Anthropocene.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2152-2157
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Feb 5


  • Adaptation
  • Population genomics
  • Postglacial expansion
  • Standing variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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