Adaptive Radiation Genomics of Two Ecologically Divergent Hawai‘ian Honeycreepers: The ‘akiapōlā‘au and the Hawai‘i ‘amakihi

The Hawai‘ian honeycreepers (drepanids) are a classic example of adaptive radiation: they adapted to a variety of novel dietary niches, evolving a wide range of bill morphologies. Here we investigated genomic diversity, demographic history, and genes involved in bill morphology phenotypes in 2 honeycreepers: the ‘akiapōlā‘au (Hemignathus wilsoni) and the Hawai‘i ‘amakihi (Chlorodrepanis virens). The ‘akiapōlā‘au is an endangered island endemic, filling the “woodpecker” niche by using a unique bill morphology, while the Hawai‘i ‘amakihi is a dietary generalist common on the islands of Hawai‘i and Maui. We de novo sequenced the ‘akiapōlā‘au genome and compared it to the previously sequenced ‘amakihi genome. The ‘akiapōlā‘au is far less heterozygous and has a smaller effective population size than the ‘amakihi, which matches expectations due to its smaller census population and restricted ecological niche. Our investigation revealed genomic islands of divergence, which may be involved in the honeycreeper radiation. Within these islands of divergence, we identified candidate genes (including DLK1, FOXB1, KIF6, MAML3, PHF20, RBP1, and TIMM17A) that may play a role in honeycreeper adaptations. The gene DLK1, previously shown to influence Darwin’s finch bill size, may be related to honeycreeper bill morphology evolution, while the functions of the other candidates remain unknown.

Journal of Heredity, esz057,


Other Contributors

Michael G Campana, André Corvelo, Jennifer Shelton, Taylor E Callicrate, Karen L Bunting, Bridget Riley-Gillis, Frank Wos, Justin DeGrazia, Erich D Jarvis, Robert C Fleischer