16.5 Wednesday, Jan. 4 The relative significance of genetic and epigenetic diversity for house sparrow colonization of Kenya SCHREY, AW*; LIEBL, AL; RICHARDS, CL; MARTIN, LB; Univ. of South Florida, Tampa; Univ. of South Florida, Tampa; Univ. of South Florida, Tampa; Univ. of South Florida, Tampa email@example.com
House sparrows (Passer domesticus) demonstrate considerable phenotypic variation among populations, which is surprising given that many populations were introduced and hence faced reduced genetic diversity due to founder effects or bottlenecks and had few generations to adapt genetically to new conditions. Here, we investigate the relative importance of genetic versus molecular epigenetic variation as a source of phenotypic variation in Kenyan house sparrows, one of the world’s most recent invasions. Epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation, are often inducible and thus can influence gene expression, and ultimately generate phenotypic variation, without altering nucleotide sequences. We characterized genetic and epigenetic variation among nine Kenyan populations partly because of their recent introduction to coastal Kenya (Mombasa) in the 1950s and also because Kenyan sparrows exhibit lower genetic diversity than longer established introduced populations. We used microsatellites to assess genetic diversity and determine the pattern of range expansion in Kenya. We then used MS-AFLP to describe variation in DNA methylation within and among locations and determined whether epigenetic or genetic variation was greater among populations as well as whether epigenetic variation compensates for decreased genetic variation after introduction.