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Woodpecker Genomes Point to Cross-Continent Adaptation Convergence

In Science Advances, researchers from Colombia University, the American Museum of Natural History, and the University of Massachusetts look at local adaptations in similar, but non-sister, woodpecker species, highlighting convergent genomic adaptations to temperature, precipitation, and other environmental features. With whole-genome resequencing data for 70 downy woodpeckers (Dryobates pubescens) and 70 hairy woodpeckers (D. villosus), the team focused in on genes and other genomic loci that appear to have been subject to selection in both species — from genes involved in body size to those influencing plumage color and variation patterns. "We demonstrate that genomic convergence is an important phenomenon driving adaptive evolution across broad environmental scales," they report, "and we present exciting new candidate genes putatively implicated in key phenotypic differences in local adaptation."