Explores the false reporting in the paper “Shape-shifting: changing animal morphologies as a response to climatic warming” and details why bird beaks change shape that’s unrelated to a climate crisis
Jim Steele sent in this video to post but I also received a tip about this study from a reader.
Climate change is not only a human problem; animals have to adapt to it as well. Some “warm-blooded” animals are shapeshifting and getting larger beaks, legs, and ears to better regulate their body temperatures as the planet gets hotter. Bird researcher Sara Ryding of Deakin University in Australia describes these changes in a review published September 7th in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.
“A lot of the time when climate change is discussed in mainstream media, people are asking ‘can humans overcome this?’, or ‘what technology can solve this?’. 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,” says Ryding. “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.”
Ryding notes that climate change is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that’s been occurring progressively, so it is difficult to pinpoint just one cause of the shapeshifting. But these changes have been occurring across wide geographical regions and among a diverse array of species, so there is little in common apart from climate change.
Strong shapeshifting has particularly been reported in birds. Several species of Australian parrot have shown, on average, a 4%-10% increase in bill size since 1871, and this is positively correlated with the summer temperature each year. North American dark-eyed juncos, a type of small songbird, had a link between increased bill size and short-term temperature extremes in cold environments. There have also been reported changes in mammalian species. Researchers have reported tail length increases in wood mice and tail and leg size increases in masked shrews.