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Elucidating the molecular genetic basis of adaptive traits is a central goal of evolutionary genetics. The cold, hypoxic conditions of high-altitude habitats impose severe metabolic demands on endothermic vertebrates, and understanding how high-altitude endotherms cope with the combined effects of hypoxia and cold can provide important insights into the process of adaptive evolution. The physiological responses to high-altitude stress have been the subject of over a century of research, and recent advances in genomic technologies have opened up exciting opportunities to explore the molecular genetic basis of adaptive physiological traits. Here, we review recent literature on the use of genomic approaches to study adaptation to high-altitude hypoxia in terrestrial vertebrates, and explore opportunities provided by newly developed technologies to address unanswered questions in high-altitude adaptation at a genomic scale. © 2012 Macmillan Publishers Limited All rights reserved.

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