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Increasing temperatures associated with climate change are predicted to cause reductions in body size, a key determinant of animal physiology and ecology. Using a four-decade specimen series of 70 716 individuals of 52 North American migratory bird species, we demonstrate that increasing annual summer temperature over the 40-year period predicts consistent reductions in body size across these diverse taxa. Concurrently, wing length - an index of body shape that impacts numerous aspects of avian ecology and behaviour - has consistently increased across species. Our findings suggest that warming-induced body size reduction is a general response to climate change, and reveal a similarly consistent and unexpected shift in body shape. We hypothesise that increasing wing length represents a compensatory adaptation to maintain migration as reductions in body size have increased the metabolic cost of flight. An improved understanding of warming-induced morphological changes is important for predicting biotic responses to global change.


Weeks, Brian C.;  Willard, David E.;  Zimova, Marketa;  Ellis, Aspen A.;  Witynski, Max L.;  Hennen, Mary;  Winger, Benjamin M.

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