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VOTE for a species to be sequenced for the first time ever!
33000 pairs (Summer)
Amniote-lizard-like-reptile (MRCA to mammals ~312 MYA)
I should be sequenced because...: As a migratory passerine with a widespread geographic range, mapping it's genome will help us better understand threats to spotflys
Spotted flycatchers, Muscicapa striata, are sub-Saharan African migrants that come to the UK in late May to breed in our broad-leaved woodland and gardens. They are understated birds whose plumage is mostly grey with some streaking on the breast and crown but generally lacking in distinguishing features. Spotted flycatchers are a small passerine bird belonging to the family Muscicapidae (the old world flycatchers), as their name implies, they are characterised by their habit of catching flying invertebrate prey on the wing.
Male and female spotted flycatchers are not dimorphic (they look the same and cannot be separated on plumage features in the field), the juveniles have a partial-post-juvenile moult once leaving the nest and both adults and juveniles have a complete moult once they have reached their wintering grounds in Africa.
Spotted flycatchers eat a variety of winged insects from flies, aphids and hymenoptera (bees and wasps), they have adapted whiskar-like bristles on their bill to aid in catching this prey type. They are active, voracious insectivores.
This species is currently facing huge population declines in Britain and is a species of conservation priority; the last 40 years have seen summering populations plummet by ~89 %. This can be likely attributed to many factors including habitat loss on both wintering and summering grounds, lack of juvenile recruitment into the population via several mechanisms and a lack of invertebrate prey leading to increased clutch failure rates.
Some genetic work has been completed on spotflys before in order to demonstrate island speciation in the Mediterranean. Pons et al., 2016 showed that allopatric speciation occured on insular islands in ‘the Med’ which over evolutionary time, has resulted in two sub-species of spotted flycatcher (M. s. balearica & M. s. tyrrhenica). This shows that spotflys can be important biological models demonstrating complex biogeographical principles and yet their genome has not been fully mapped as of now.
Spotted flycatchers are an un-assuming but quietly beautiful species whose conservation is integral to understanding the breeding biology of sub-Saharan migrant passerines.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Understated, sprightly, declining
What's it like where you live?
Mature, broadleaved woodland with plenty of clearings...or your garden shed!
What's your favourite food?
What's your family life like?
Enthusiasm to find a nest occurs as soon as adults return to summering grounds. Clutch of eggs laid in early June (~4/5 eggs), 20 % of spot flys are double brooded and so will lay a second clutch mid July once the previous chicks have fledged. The young leave the safety of the nest once half grown and are continued to be fed by their parents intermittently until the adults leave on migration back to sub-Saharan Africa.
Are you endangered or threatened by anything?
The spotted flycatcher has been undergoing substantial population declines (-89 %) since the 1960s. It is thought that recruitment into the breeding population for juveniles is low, in conjunction with habitat loss in their African wintering grounds. Could excessive agricultural pesticide use also be contriubuting to poor breeding success?
What's the best thing about you/interesting fact?
I have small, modified feathers which resemble bristles on my bill. This is to reduce the likelihood of flies escaping me-they work much like cat's whiskars!
The champion of this species is...
Emma-Louise Cole, SEACAMS2 Research Assistant. Swansea University.