Birds could end up with large beaks and indistinct plumage – as climate change threatens to wipe out species with ‘extreme’ traits
- Birds with ‘extreme’ traits more at risk of extinction due to climate change
- Scientists have found that the loss of biodiversity in birds is likely to happen faster than expected
- Species also develop larger beaks to help maintain their body temperature
- The results reveal that we may be losing species with unique traits beneficial to humans
Soon you may not be able to tell pigeons about your parrot, as climate change threatens to wipe out birds with the most extreme physical traits.
New research from the University of Sheffield suggests that they are adapting to global warming by developing large beaks and losing distinctive characteristics.
Scientists have discovered that the world’s smallest and largest birds are most in danger of extinction.
They also found that diversity loss can happen faster than we might expect based on species loss alone.
This may result in birds with unique traits that could benefit humans in genetics.
‘When species are inherited, you would expect the traits they represent to be lost,’ said lead author, Dr. Emma Hughes.
But what we found is that with morphological diversity, traits were lost at a much, much, much greater rate than just species loss could predict.
“This is really important because that can lead to a significant loss of environmental strategies and jobs.”
The stork-billed kingfisher (pictured) is found in tropical parts of Southeast Asia, an area at risk of biodiversity loss due to climate change, according to the study.
Scientists have discovered that the world’s smallest and largest birds are most in danger of extinction. The ostrich is the largest living bird in the world (pictured)
Mammals are also metamorphic
According to researchers from Australia’s Deakin University, mammal species are also undergoing remarkable changes.
While most studies of the effects of climate change on mammals have focused on overall body size, some researchers have noted changes in certain supplements.
For example, wood rats grow longer tails, while hooded shrews develop larger tails and legs.
It was also found that bats increased the sizes of their ears, tail, legs and wings along with an increase in temperature.
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The study, published today in Current Biology, describes how the team analyzed physical traits, such as body size, beak shape, leg length and wing length, for 8,455 bird species around the world from museum collections.
They then modeled how biodiversity would change in a world where species currently classified as “endangered,” “endangered” and “vulnerable,” by sequentially removing species from at least those to at least endangered.
They found that as the species was lost, the diversity in their physical characteristics tended to have small to medium-sized bodies and short beaks.
The size and shape of birds varies greatly – from the giant flightless ostrich to the small hummingbird.
“We found strong evidence supporting the hypothesis that the largest and smallest species are most at risk of extinction,” said Dr. Hughes.
Like humans, birds are warm-blooded, so they must maintain a body temperature above their environment.
The researchers also found that birds develop larger beaks to help them maintain a constant temperature during climate change.
Parrot bills, for example, have grown 10 percent larger in the 150 years since the start of the Industrial Revolution.
The study results revealed that species with extreme traits such as unique plumage are more likely to be lost as a result of the effects of climate change. Pictured is black and red broad-billed, which lives in Cambodia – an area at risk of losing bird biodiversity.
Certain areas are more likely to be left with groups of bird species that resemble each other, as their extreme traits are being phased out. Pictured is a Siberian blue robin
The study found that certain regions are more likely to be left with groups of bird species that are similar to one another, as their extreme traits are phased out.
Ornithologist Dr Hughes said: “The Himalayas and their foothills are at particular risk, and the loss of trait diversity is likely to be significant.
The dry and humid forests of southern Vietnam and Cambodia are also at risk.
They include Siberian blue robins, kingfisher-billed stork, black- and red-billed robin, and oriental flycatcher.
The team hopes their work will help people understand how biodiversity loss will change the world.
She added: “The global extinction crisis doesn’t just mean we’re losing species.
This means that we are missing out on unique traits and evolutionary histories, including species that could confer unique benefits to humanity that are currently unknown.
Future warming threatens marine life in more than 70 percent of the ocean’s most biodiverse regions
More than 70 percent of most areas of Earth’s ocean biodiversity are under threat from climate change.
Researchers have determined where the species must move in order to find habitable space amid warming oceans.
They used a new technique to compare past and future extremes of ocean warming, which allowed them to map global vulnerability to future climate change and determine the distances species would need to travel to find better weather conditions.
The lead author, Dr. Stuart Brown of the University of Adelaide’s Institute of Environment.
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A new study has revealed that some of the planet’s most diverse ocean regions are threatened by climate change. Left: Caretta Caretta Right: Gray reef shark and black tip shark