A recently published study in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution found that warm-blooded animals such as birds and mice are experiencing changes in their beaks, legs, and ears. These bodily changes have been attributed to climate change.
The study was led by Sara Ryding of Deakin University in Australia and used Allen’s Rule – which states that animals in colder climates have shorter limbs and appendages than animals living in warmer climates – to measure the changes.
As per the statement, ‘This implicates the increased frequency of extreme climate events in causing morphological shifts, in addition to the general rise in temperature associated with climate change. It is noteworthy that the examples given here range across broad geographic areas, from the Arctic to tropical regions of Australia.’
The study recorded the largest change in birds from Australia and North America, noting an increase of 4-10% in bill surface area in Australian parrots since 1871. The dark-eyed junco bird in North American has also experienced an increase in bill size.
Wood mice were found to have larger ears and bats had grown larger wings. With temperatures rising, animals must find ways to cool down. While birds regulate body temperature through their beaks, mammals do so through their ears.
However, Ryding warned that not all animals would adapt to steadily increasing temperatures across the globe. ‘It’s high time we recognized that animals also have to adapt to these changes, but this is occurring over a far shorter timescale than would have occurred through most of evolutionary time,’ she explained.
‘The climate change that we have created is heaping a whole lot of pressure on them, and while some species will adapt, others will not. We might end up with a live-action Dumbo in the not-so-distant future.’, she added.