Global warming and Bergmann's rule: do central European passerines adjust their body size to rising temperatures?
ABSTRACT: Recent climate change has caused diverse ecological responses in plants and animals. However, relatively little is known about homeothermic animals' ability to adapt to changing temperature regimes through changes in body size, in accordance with Bergmann's rule. We used fluctuations in mean annual temperatures in south-west Germany since 1972 in order to look for direct links between temperature and two aspects of body size: body mass and flight feather length. Data from regionally born juveniles of 12 passerine bird species were analysed. Body mass and feather length varied significantly among years in eight and nine species, respectively. Typically the inter-annual changes in morphology were complexly non-linear, as was inter-annual variation in temperature. For six (body mass) and seven species (feather length), these inter-annual fluctuations were significantly correlated with temperature fluctuations. However, negative correlations consistent with Bergmann's rule were only found for five species, either for body mass or feather length. In several of the species for which body mass and feather length was significantly associated with temperature, morphological responses were better predicted by temperature data that were smoothed across multiple years than by the actual mean breeding season temperatures of the year of birth. This was found in five species for body mass and three species for feather length. These results suggest that changes in body size may not merely be the result of phenotypic plasticity but may hint at genetically based microevolutionary adaptations.
Project description:Bergmann's rule is a widely-accepted biogeographic rule stating that individuals within a species are smaller in warmer environments. While there are many single-species studies and integrative reviews documenting this pattern, a data-intensive approach has not been used yet to determine the generality of this pattern. We assessed the strength and direction of the intraspecific relationship between temperature and individual mass for 952 bird and mammal species. For eighty-seven percent of species, temperature explained less than 10% of variation in mass, and for 79% of species the correlation was not statistically significant. These results suggest that Bergmann's rule is not general and temperature is not a dominant driver of biogeographic variation in mass. Further understanding of size variation will require integrating multiple processes that influence size. The lack of dominant temperature forcing weakens the justification for the hypothesis that global warming could result in widespread decreases in body size.
Project description:BACKGROUND: The impact of environmental gradients on the evolution of life history traits is a central issue in macroecology and evolutionary biology. A number of hypotheses have been formulated to explain factors shaping patterns of variation in animal mass. One such example is Bergmann's rule, which predicts that body size will be positively correlated with latitude and elevation, and hence, with decreasing environmental temperatures. A generally accepted explanation for this phenotypic response is that as body mass increases, body surface area gets proportionally smaller, which contributes to reduced rates of heat-loss. Phylogenetic and non-phylogenetic evidence reveals that endotherms follow Bergmann's rule. In contrast, while previous non-phylogenetic studies supported this prediction in up to 75% of ectotherms, recent phylogenetic comparative analyses suggest that its validity for these organisms is controversial and less understood. Moreover, little attention has been paid to why some ectotherms conform to this rule, while others do not. Here, we investigate Bergmann's rule in the six main clades forming the Liolaemus genus, one of the largest and most environmentally diverse genera of terrestrial vertebrates. A recent study conducted on some species belonging to four of these six clades concluded that Liolaemus species follow Bergmann's rule, representing the only known phylogenetic support for this model in lizards. However, a later reassessment of this evidence, performed on one of the four analysed clades, produced contrasting conclusions. RESULTS: Our results fail to support Bergmann's rule in Liolaemus lizards. Non-phylogenetic and phylogenetic analyses showed that none of the studied clades experience increasing body size with increasing latitude and elevation. CONCLUSION: Most physiological and behavioural processes in ectotherms depend directly upon their body temperature. In cold environments, adaptations to gain heat rapidly are under strong positive selection to allow optimal feeding, mating and predator avoidance. Therefore, evolution of larger body size in colder environments appears to be a disadvantageous thermoregulatory strategy. The repeated lack of support for Bergmann's rule in ectotherms suggests that this model should be recognized as a valid rule exclusively for endotherms.
Project description:Bergmann's rule, defined as the tendency for endotherms to be larger in colder environments, is a biophysical generalization of body size variation that is frequently tested along latitudinal gradients, even though latitude is only a proxy for temperature variation. We test whether variation in temperature and aridity determine avian body size conformity to Bergmann's rule independent of latitude differences, using the ubiquitous Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus, along a West African environmental gradient. We trapped 538 birds in 22 locations between latitudes 6 and 13°N in Nigeria, and estimated average body surface area to mass ratio per location. We then modelled body surface to mass ratio using general linear models, with latitude, altitude and one of 19 bioclimatic variables extracted from http://www.worldclim.org/bioclim as predictors. We sequentially dropped latitude and altitude from each model to obtain the R 2 of the resultant models. Finally, we compared the R 2 of univariate models, where bioclimatic variables predicted body surface area to mass ratio significantly (14 out of 19), to multivariate models including latitude, altitude and a bioclimatic variable, using the Wilcoxon matched pairs test. We found that multivariate models did not perform better than univariate models with only bioclimatic variables. Six temperature and eight precipitation variables significantly predicted variation in body surface area to mass ratio between locations; in fact, 50% (seven out of 14) of these better explained variation in body surface area to mass ratio than the multivariate models. Birds showed a larger body surface area relative to body mass ratio in hotter environments independent of latitude or altitude, which conforms to Bergmann's rule. Yet, a combination of morphometric analyses and controlled temperature-exposure experiments is required to prove the proposed relationship between relative body surface area and thermoregulation in endotherms.
Project description:Two patterns commonly emerge when animal body size is analyzed as a function of latitudinal distribution. First, body size increases with latitude, a temperature effect known as Bergmann's rule, and second, the converse to Bergmann's rule, a pattern in which body size decreases with latitude. However, other geographic patterns can emerge when the mechanisms that generate Bergmann's and the converse to Bergmann's clines operate together. Here, we use phylogenetic comparative analysis in order to control for phylogenetic inertia, and we show that bumblebees exhibit the converse to Bergmann's rule. Bumblebee taxa are distributed worldwide in temperate and tropical regions. The largest species are found in places with high water availability during the driest time of the year. Nonetheless, large body size is constrained by extreme temperatures. Bumblebees' body size could be related to a higher extent to the size of food rewards to be harvested than to the energetic advantages of thermoregulation. Moreover, we found that the body size of eusocial and cuckoo species responded in the same way to environmental variables, suggesting that they have not diverged due to different selective pressures.
Project description:It is widely accepted that modern humans conform to Bergmann's rule, which holds that body size in endothermic species will increase as temperature decreases. However, there are reasons to question the reliability of the findings on which this consensus is based. One of these is that the main studies that have reported that modern humans conform to Bergmann's rule have employed samples that contain a disproportionately large number of warm-climate and northern hemisphere groups. With this in mind, we used latitudinally-stratified and hemisphere-specific samples to re-assess the relationship between modern human body size and temperature. We found that when groups from north and south of the equator were analyzed together, Bergmann's rule was supported. However, when groups were separated by hemisphere, Bergmann's rule was only supported in the northern hemisphere. In the course of exploring these results further, we found that the difference between our northern and southern hemisphere subsamples is due to the limited latitudinal and temperature range in the latter subsample. Thus, our study suggests that modern humans do conform to Bergmann's rule but only when there are major differences in latitude and temperature among groups. Specifically, groups must span more than 50 degrees of latitude and/or more than 30°C for it to hold. This finding has important implications for work on regional variation in human body size and its relationship to temperature.
Project description:OBJECTIVES:Direct comparative work in morphology and growth on widely dispersed wild primate taxa is rarely accomplished, yet critical to understanding ecogeographic variation, plastic local variation in response to human impacts, and variation in patterns of growth and sexual dimorphism. We investigated population variation in morphology and growth in response to geographic variables (i.e., latitude, altitude), climatic variables (i.e., temperature and rainfall), and human impacts in the vervet monkey (Chlorocebus spp.). METHODS:We trapped over 1,600 wild vervets from across Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, and compared measurements of body mass, body length, and relative thigh, leg, and foot length in four well-represented geographic samples: Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, and St. Kitts & Nevis. RESULTS:We found significant variation in body mass and length consistent with Bergmann's Rule in adult females, and in adult males when excluding the St. Kitts & Nevis population, which was more sexually dimorphic. Contrary to Rensch's Rule, although the South African population had the largest average body size, it was the least dimorphic. There was significant, although very small, variation in all limb segments in support for Allen's Rule. Females in high human impact areas were heavier than those with moderate exposures, while those in low human impact areas were lighter; human impacts had no effect on males. CONCLUSIONS:Vervet monkeys appear to have adapted to local climate as predicted by Bergmann's and, less consistently, Allen's Rule, while also responding in predicted ways to human impacts. To better understand deviations from predicted patterns will require further comparative work in vervets.
Project description:According to Bergmann's rule we expect species with larger body size to inhabit locations with a cooler climate, where they may be well adapted to conserve heat and resist starvation. This rule is generally applied to endotherms. In contrast, body size in ectothermic invertebrates has been suggested to follow the reverse ecogeographic trend: these converse Bergmann's patterns may be driven by the ecological constraints of shorter season length and lower food availability in cooler high latitude locations. Such patterns are particularly common in large insects due to their longer development times. As large and facultatively endothermic insects, bumblebees could thus be expected to follow either trend. In this investigation, we studied body size of three bumblebee species over a large spatial area and investigated whether interspecific trends in body size correspond to differences in their distribution consistent with either Bergmann's or a converse Bergmann's rule. We examined the body size of queens, males and workers of the Bombus lucorum complex of cryptic bumblebee species from across the whole of Great Britain. We found interspecific differences in body size corresponding to Bergmann's rule: queens and males of the more northerly distributed, cool-adapted, species were largest. In contrast, the mean body size of the worker caste did not vary between the three species. These differences in body size may have evolved under selection pressures for thermoregulation or starvation resistance. We suggest that this case study in facultatively endothermic insects may help clarify the selection pressures governing Bergmann rule trends more generally.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Predation is one of the most important natural selection forces. Prey species can optimize feeding behavior and escape from predators based on mobility conditioned by body proportions. With age, mobility capacity increases and individuals are more efficient in finding resources and safety (e.g., food and refuge). Birds' mobility is driven by the dimensions, of the head and torso, as well as the extremities and flight feathers. To assess the relationship between body traits and to understand how body proportions are organized in wild Red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa), we used biometric data from nearly 14,000 individuals, obtained during a long-term study (1988-2011) on a wild population.<h4>Results</h4>We used GLMs and regressions to model the relationship between body mass and the size of body parts. We found that wing length was the morphological part best explained by other body trait measures. Wing length models were better predictors in juveniles than in adults and in females than in males. Wing length and feather length, mass and total length are the most strongly related parts; mass and wing length, total length and feather length are moderately related. The association between mass and wing length is intermediated by feather length and total length.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Social inclusion, feeding and predator evasion may be affected by body structure intermediated by mobility and health. Our results suggest that proportions of the body, extremities and flight feathers drive mobility which is intimately associated with ecology, biological efficiency, health and physical optimization. Our findings showed that wing size was strongly allied to other body part measurements, enhancing the importance of body structure conformation for flight. Our study highlights the scaled relationship of body structure among age-sex classes and its relevance to social cohesion, flock movement and the balance between predation and starvation.
Project description:The relationship between body size and temperature of mammals is poorly resolved, especially for large keystone species such as bison (Bison bison). Bison are well represented in the fossil record across North America, which provides an opportunity to relate body size to climate within a species. We measured the length of a leg bone (calcaneal tuber, DstL) in 849 specimens from 60 localities that were dated by stratigraphy and 14C decay. We estimated body mass (M) as M = (DstL/11.49)3. Average annual temperature was estimated from ?18O values in the ice cores from Greenland. Calcaneal tuber length of Bison declined over the last 40,000 years, that is, average body mass was 37% larger (910 ± 50 kg) than today (665 ± 21 kg). Average annual temperature has warmed by 6°C since the Last Glacial Maximum (~24-18 kya) and is predicted to further increase by 4°C by the end of the 21st century. If body size continues to linearly respond to global temperature, Bison body mass will likely decline by an additional 46%, to 357 ± 54 kg, with an increase of 4°C globally. The rate of mass loss is 41 ± 10 kg per°C increase in global temperature. Changes in body size of Bison may be a result of migration, disease, or human harvest but those effects are likely to be local and short-term and not likely to persist over the long time scale of the fossil record. The strong correspondence between body size of bison and air temperature is more likely the result of persistent effects on the ability to grow and the consequences of sustaining a large body mass in a warming environment. Continuing rises in global temperature will likely depress body sizes of bison, and perhaps other large grazers, without human intervention.
Project description:<h4>Aim</h4>The tendency for animals at higher latitudes to be larger (Bergmann's rule) is generally explained by recourse to latitudinal effects on ambient temperature and the food supply, but these receive only mixed support and do not explain observations of the inverse to Bergmann's rule. Our aim was to better understand how ecological variables might influence body size and thereby explain this mixed support.<h4>Location</h4>World-wide.<h4>Methods</h4>Previous explanations do not allow for the selective pressure exerted by the trade-off between predation and starvation, which we incorporate in a model of optimal body size and energy storage of a generalized homeotherm. In contrast to existing arguments, we concentrate on survival over winter when the food supply is poor and can be interrupted for short periods.<h4>Results</h4>We use our model to assess the logical validity of the heat conservation hypothesis and show that it must allow for the roles of both food availability and predation risk. We find that whether the effect of temperature on body size is positive or negative depends on temperature range, predator density, and the likelihood of long interruptions to foraging. Furthermore, changing day length explains differing effects of altitude and latitude on body size, leading to opposite predictions for nocturnal and diurnal endotherms. Food availability and ambient temperature can have counteracting selective pressures on body mass, and can lead to a non-monotonic relationship between latitude and size, as observed in several studies.<h4>Main conclusions</h4>Our work provides a theoretical framework for understanding the relationships between the costs and benefits of large body size and eco-geographical patterns among endotherms world-wide.