Ecotypic changes of alpine birds to climate change.
ABSTRACT: In endotherm animals, several traits are related to climate. For example, Bergmann's rule predicts a decrease in body size within species and across closely related species with increasing temperature, whereas Gloger's rule states that birds and mammals should be darker in humid and warm environments compared to colder and drier areas. However, it is still not clear whether ecotypic responses to variation in the local environment can also apply to morphological and colouration changes through time in response to climate change. We present a 100-year-long time series on morphological and melanin-based colours of snowfinch (325 Montifringilla, 92 Pyrgilauda and 30 Onychostruthus) museum specimens. Here we show that the tarsus length of the species has decreased and the saturation of the melanin-based colour has increased, which was correlated with the increase of temperature and precipitations. As ecotypic variations are tightly linked to individual behavioural and physiological responses to environmental variations, differently sized and coloured individuals are expected to be differently penalized by global changes. This study opens the pertinent question about whether ecotypic responses can enhance population persistence in the context of global change.
Project description:Climate change is expected to induce many ecological and evolutionary changes. Among these is the hypothesis that climate warming will cause a reduction in body size. This hypothesis stems from Bergmann's rule, a trend whereby species exhibit a smaller body size in warmer climates, and larger body size under colder conditions in endotherms. The mechanisms behind this rule are still debated, and it is not clear whether Bergmann's rule can be extended to predict the effects of climate change through time. We reviewed the primary literature for evidence (i) of a decrease in body size in response to climate warming, (ii) that changing body size is an adaptive response and (iii) that these responses are evolutionary or plastic. We found weak evidence for changes in body size through time as predicted by Bergmann's rule. Only three studies investigated the adaptive nature of these size decreases. Of these, none reported evidence of selection for smaller size or of a genetic basis for the size change, suggesting that size decreases could be due to nonadaptive plasticity in response to changing environmental conditions. More studies are needed before firm conclusions can be drawn about the underlying causes of these changes in body size in response to a warming climate.
Project description:Organismal appearances are shaped by selection from both biotic and abiotic drivers. For example, Gloger's rule describes the pervasive pattern that more pigmented populations are found in more humid areas. However, species may also converge on nearly identical colours and patterns in sympatry, often to avoid predation by mimicking noxious species. Here we leverage a massive global citizen-science database to determine how biotic and abiotic factors act in concert to shape plumage in the world's 230 species of woodpeckers. We find that habitat and climate profoundly influence woodpecker plumage, and we recover support for the generality of Gloger's rule. However, many species exhibit remarkable convergence explained neither by these factors nor by shared ancestry. Instead, this convergence is associated with geographic overlap between species, suggesting occasional strong selection for interspecific mimicry.
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: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:Ecological responses to on-going climate change are numerous, diverse, and taxonomically widespread. However, with one exception, the relative roles of phenotypic plasticity and microevolution as mechanisms in explaining these responses are largely unknown. Several recent studies have uncovered evidence for temporal declines in mean body sizes of birds and mammals, and these responses have been interpreted as evidence for microevolution in the context of Bergmann's rule-an ecogeographic rule predicting an inverse correlation between temperature and mean body size in endothermic animals. We used a dataset of individually marked red-billed gulls (Larus novaehollandiae scopulinus) from New Zealand to document phenotypic and genetic changes in mean body mass over a 47-year (1958-2004) period. We found that, whereas the mean body mass had decreased over time as ambient temperatures increased, analyses of breeding values estimated with an "animal model" approach showed no evidence for any genetic change. These results indicate that the frequently observed climate-change-related responses in mean body size of animal populations might be due to phenotypic plasticity, rather than to genetic microevolutionary responses.
Project description:Concealing coloration in rodents is well established. However, only a few studies examined how soil color, pelage color, hair-melanin content, and genetics (i.e., the causal chain) synergize to configure it. This study investigates the causal chain of dorsal coloration in Israeli subterranean blind mole rats, Spalax ehrenbergi.We examined pelage coloration of 128 adult animals from 11 populations belonging to four species of Spalax ehrenbergi superspecies (Spalax galili, Spalax golani, Spalax carmeli, and Spalax judaei) and the corresponding coloration of soil samples from the collection sites using a digital colorimeter. Additionally, we quantified hair-melanin contents of 67 animals using HPLC and sequenced the MC1R gene in 68 individuals from all four mole rat species.Due to high variability of soil colors, the correlation between soil and pelage color coordinates was weak and significant only between soil hue and pelage lightness. Multiple stepwise forward regression revealed that soil lightness was significantly associated with all pelage color variables. Pelage color lightness among the four species increased with the higher southward aridity in accordance to Gloger's rule (darker in humid habitats and lighter in arid habitats). Darker and lighter pelage colors are associated with darker basalt and terra rossa, and lighter rendzina soils, respectively. Despite soil lightness varying significantly, pelage lightness and eumelanin converged among populations living in similar soil types. Partial sequencing of the MC1R gene identified three allelic variants, two of which were predominant in northern species (S. galili and S. golani), and the third was exclusive to southern species (S. carmeli and S. judaei), which might have caused the differences found in pheomelanin/eumelanin ratio.Darker dorsal pelage in darker basalt and terra rossa soils in the north and lighter pelage in rendzina and loess soils in the south reflect the combined results of crypsis and thermoregulatory function following Gloger's rule.
Project description:Plumage is among the most well-studied components of integumentary colouration. However, plumage conceals most skin in birds, and as a result the presence, evolution and function of skin colour remains unexplored. Here we show, using a database of 2259 species encompassing >99% of bird genera, that melanin-rich, black skin is found in a small but sizeable percentage (~5%) of birds, and that it evolved over 100 times. The spatial distribution of black skin follows Gloger's rule, which states that pigmentation of endothermic animals increases towards the equator. Furthermore, most black-skinned birds inhabit high irradiation regions, and tend to be bald and/or have white feathers. Thus, taken together, our results suggest that melanin-rich, black skin helps to protect birds against ultraviolet irradiation. More generally, our results illustrate that feathered skin colour varies taxonomically, ontogenetically and temporally, providing an additional dimension for avian colour research.
Project description:Body size decline is hypothesized to be a key response to climate warming, including warming driven by urban heat islands. However, urbanization may also generate selective gradients for body size increases in smaller endotherms via habitat fragmentation. Here we utilize a densely sampled, multi-source dataset to examine how climate and urbanization affect body size of Peromyscus maniculatus (PEMA), an abundant rodent found across North America. We predicted PEMA would conform to Bergmann's Rule, e.g. larger individuals in colder climates, spatially and temporally. Hypotheses regarding body size in relation to urbanization are less clear; however, with increased food resources due to greater anthropogenic activity, we expected an increase in PEMA size. Spatial mixed-models showed that PEMA conform to Bergmann's Rule and that PEMA were shorter in more urbanized areas. With the inclusion of decade in mixed-models, we found PEMA mass, but not length, is decreasing over time irrespective of climate or population density. We also unexpectedly found that, over time, smaller-bodied populations of PEMA are getting larger, while larger-bodied populations are getting smaller. Our work highlights the importance of using dense spatiotemporal datasets, and modeling frameworks that account for bias, to better disentangle broad-scale climatic and urbanization effects on body size.
Project description: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:Along ecological gradients, phenotypic differentiation can arise through natural selection on trait diversity and magnitude, and environment-driven plastic changes. The magnitude of ecotypic differentiation versus phenotypic plasticity can vary depending on the traits under study. Using reciprocal transplant-common gardens along steep elevation gradients, we evaluated patterns of ecotypic differentiation and phenotypic plasticity of several growth and defense-related traits for two coexisting but unrelated plant species, Cardamine pratensis and Plantago major. For both species, we observed ecotypic differentiation accompanied by plasticity in growth-related traits. Plants grew faster and produced more biomass when placed at low elevation. In contrast, we observed fixed ecotypic differentiation for defense and resistance traits. Generally, low-elevation ecotypes produced higher chemical defenses regardless of the growing elevation. Yet, some plasticity was observed for specific compounds, such as indole glucosinolates. The results of this study may suggest that ecotypic differentiation in defense traits is maintained by costs of chemical defense production, while plasticity in growth traits is regulated by temperature-driven growth response maximization.