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April 27, 2023

Title: Harnessing Genomics to Examine Local Adaptation in Sage-Grouse

Speaker: Sara Oyler-McCance, Research Geneticist, USGS Fort Collins Science Center

Date: May 5 at 2:00 pm Eastern

Summary: Identifying and protecting unique genetic adaptations is a vital component of conservation and management, especially for species whose distribution spans diverse ecological conditions. Novel genomic methods have now made it possible to explore the genome for potential genetic adaptations in most species. Our research is exploring dietary adaptation in both Gunnison Sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) and Greater Sage-grouse (C. urophasianus), two herbivores that have successfully evolved mechanisms to cope with toxic compounds present in sagebrush to defend against herbivory. Substantial geographic variation exists in plant secondary metabolites in sagebrush, indicating that sage-grouse populations may be exposed to distinct natural selection imposed by the chemistry of local sagebrush varieties. We identified a family of genes linked to local dietary adaptation suggesting that both species of sage-grouse may possess digestive and metabolic adaptations that mitigate the effects of consuming plant secondary metabolites like those found in sagebrush. These potential links between sage-grouse and the chemistry of the local sagebrush plants within which they reside are highly relevant to consider for conservation and management strategies. For instance, sagebrush restoration efforts could consider using local sagebrush material to avoid mismatches in plant secondary metabolites with the local sage-grouse population. Additionally, it may be prudent for translocation efforts to carefully consider the sagebrush communities associated with source and recipient sage-grouse populations.

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