bye bye birdie
Even the most geographically remote species can't avoid the climate crisis.
Some animals are adapting to the climate crisis in a very visible way: they’re altering the shape of their bodies.
Giorgio Roncaglia / 500px/500px Prime/Getty Images
Bigger ears, longer tails, and lengthier legs can make it easier for different species to regulate their body temperatures when the heat spikes.
A study published November 12 in the journal Science Advances documents the altered bodies of birds living in the Amazon rainforest over the course of 40 years.
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The Amazon has become significantly hotter and drier. These changes are largely attributed to human activity.
The study’s data suggests — in an effort to survive — the wingspans of birds are collectively getting longer, while their bodies are getting smaller.
When a bird’s body is smaller, it doesn’t require as much energy to lift itself off the ground.
That also means it won’t generate as much metabolic heat.
That means researchers have a better idea of what bodily effects are caused by climate change, minimizing the presence of factors that may tie in with migratory behaviors.
Since 1980, this study team has captured and released birds from 77 species living in remote areas of the Amazon.
Over the course of 40 years, more than 15,000 individual birds were assessed.
“These birds don’t vary that much in size. They are fairly fine-tuned, so when everyone in the population is a couple of grams smaller, it’s significant.”
Philip Stouffer, study co-author
How Amazonian birds will fare in the coming decades remains an open question, especially if the climate crisis becomes even more severe.
Shrinking birds have been observed elsewhere, too.
The researchers say that further analysis may uncover similar trends across the globe.