The zebra finch has long been an important model system for the study of vocal learning, vocal production, and behavior. With the imminent sequencing of its genome, the zebra finch is now poised to become a model system for population genetics. Using a panel of 30 noncoding loci, we characterized patterns of polymorphism and divergence among wild zebra finch populations. Continental Australian populations displayed little population structure, exceptionally high levels of nucleotide diversity (pi = 0.010), a rapid decay of linkage disequilibrium (LD), and a high population recombination rate (rho approximate to 0.05), all of which suggest an open and fluid genomic background that could facilitate adaptive variation. By contrast, Substantial divergence between the Australian and Lesser Sunda Island populations (K-ST = 0.193), reduced genetic diversity (pi = 0.002), and higher levels of LD in the island Population suggest a strong but relatively recent founder event, which may have contributed to speciation between these populations as envisioned under founder-effect speciation models. Consistent with this hypothesis, we find that tinder a simple quantitative genetic model both drift and selection could have contributed to the observed divergence in six quantitative traits. In both Australian and Lesser Sundas populations, diversity in Z-linked loci was significantly lower than in autosomal loci. Our analysis provides a quantitative framework for studying the role of selection and drift in shaping patterns of molecular evolution in the zebra finch genome.
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