Sedentary passerine birds living in temperate and boreal regions need a high metabolic capacity for thermogenesis to survive winter conditions. As a consequence of the increased thermogenic capacity, basal energetic demands rise at a time when resources and time to acquire them decrease. In a previous study, great tits (Parus major) from two localities in Fennoscandia with contrasting winter conditions differed in their metabolic response to ambient temperature. To investigate the physiological basis underlying interpopulation differences we performed a common-garden experiment to test whether these differences were genetically based. We found basal metabolic rate to be higher in birds originating from transferred eggs from the southern population compared to the ones from the northern population, contrary to the relationship among birds living in their region of origin. Despite previous evidence suggesting that gene flow prevents local adaptation at the northern range limits of a species expanding northward, we found that great tits differ in their reaction norm to winter conditions according to the population of origin.
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Vol. 59 • No. 7