How climate change is changing bird body shape

Written by Staff Writer

Humans, it seems, aren’t the only creatures in our world whose well-being is being affected by climate change.

In a new study published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, scientists have found that the way birds body shape has changed over recent decades has been in direct correlation with how their food supply has changed.

Pollinators have been decimated by declining water quality and climate change. Credit: Diane Maisch for The World Bank

“Using natures touch data, we have found that climate change has influenced bird body shape in a way that shifts downwards in mass (a downward spiral of weight loss),” said Dr Paula Cusick, associate professor at the University of Leicester’s John O’Groats Campus in Britain, in a press release.

Around the world, wild birds rely on four pollinators — birds of prey, bats, crows and bees — each with different needs.

1 / 18 – Watu’ichy macaques, also known as Big Singing Macaques, are the world’s largest population of primates, with an estimated population of up to 2 million in Central and Southeast Asia Credit: EPA/Ichihara Kogyo

For bats, climate change can cause major problems for the survival of insects that they feed on, while insects can cause loss of valuable nesting territory and territories.

It’s therefore no surprise to learn that some birds are showing signs of being “battered” by climate change while others are adapting by developing new forms of defense.

For example, when environmental warming causes honeydew fungus to become more active, a small bird called the albatross cuts off its body feathers to avoid infecting itself with the fungus.

Ultimately, these climate-related adaptations are evidence of an overall trend towards natural selection in the natural world.

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