Gardner JL, Amano T, Peters A, Sutherland WJ, Mackey B, Joseph L, Stein J, Ikin K, Little R, Smith J, Symonds MRE (2019) Australian songbird body size tracks climate variation: 82 species over 50 years. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 286: 20192258 PDF
What’s the paper about?
Using about 12,000 museum specimens from the Meliphagides (honeyeaters and their allies*), we examined changes in body size over the period 1950 to 2010, in relation to changes in climate. The patterns are complex, but basically species that have experienced the equivalent of more that 1.2 degrees Celsius of change in 100 years and that live in traditionally cooler climates have experienced declines in body size (which fits with patterns like Bergmann’s rule).
What’s the story behind it?
I’ve been collaborating with Janet Gardner for quite a while now, and this paper was a LONG time in getting together. I had initial discussion with Janet and Anne Peters about it back in 2014, and the main part of the analysis was done in 2015 – although I had to re-do it many many times as new suggestions came up. In fact initially there was a lot more that we did, looking at a huge range of patterns. But, very much in the way that the Beach Boys Good Vibrations was edited down from 6 hours of musical material to a 2 and half minute pop song, we had to reduce the paper to focus on what we felt was the most important aspect. By the time it finally got accepted (and because of the complexity of the patterns, it was not an easy sell) I was pretty much sick of it. But I didn’t have to measure 12,000 bird specimens at least.
*you would not want a honeyeater as your enemy.
[…] A big analysis of the effects of climate change on Australian bird body size, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B […]