In a new study published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution , bird researcher Sara Ryding from the University of Deakin (Australia), some warm-blooded animals are changing shape and getting larger beaks, legs and ears to better regulate their body temperature as the planet warms .
Now Ryding sets out to investigate the shapeshifting of Australian birds firsthand by 3D scanning museum bird specimens from the past 100 years .
Major changes in birds
The most marked changes in shape have been observed above all in birds . Several species of Australian parrots have shown, on average, a 4% to 10% increase in beak size since 1871, and this is positively correlated with summer temperature each year.
North American dark-eyed junks, a type of small songbird, had a relationship between increased beak size and short-term extreme temperatures in cold environments.
Changes have also been recorded in mammalian species : researchers have reported increased tail length in forest mice and increased tail and leg size in masked shrews. According to Ryding:
The increases in the size of the appendages that we have observed so far are quite small (less than 10%), so it is unlikely that the changes will be immediately noticeable. However, prominent appendages such as ears are predicted to enlarge, so we could end up with a live-action Dumbo in the not-too-distant future.