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Spatial variation in avian bill size (1 Viewer)

Fred Ruhe

Well-known member
Prober, Timothée Bonnet, Kristen J. Williams, Chris Ware and Janet L. Gardner, 2024

Spatial variation in avian bill size is associated with temperature extremes in a major radiation of Australian passerines

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 291(2015): 2023.2480

doi: https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2023.2480

Abstract: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2023.2480

Morphology is integral to body temperature regulation. Recent advances in understanding of thermal physiology suggest a role of the avian bill in thermoregulation. To explore the adaptive significance of bill size for thermoregulation we characterized relationships between bill size and climate extremes. Most previous studies focused on climate means, ignoring frequencies of extremes, and do not reflect thermoregulatory costs experienced over shorter time scales. Using 79 species (9847 museum specimens), we explore how bill size variation is associated with temperature extremes in a large and diverse radiation of Australasian birds, Meliphagides, testing a series of predictions. Overall, across the continent, bill size variation was associated with both climate extremes and means and was most strongly associated with winter temperatures; associations at the level of climate zones differed from continent-wide associations and were complex, yet consistent with physiology and a thermoregulatory role for avian bills. Responses to high summer temperatures were nonlinear suggesting they may be difficult to detect in large-scale continental analyses using previous methodologies. We provide strong evidence that climate extremes have contributed to the evolution of bill morphology in relation to thermoregulation and show the importance of including extremes to understand fine-scale trait variation across space.



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