Reviews and Synthesis
Climate warming and Bergmann's rule through time: is there any evidence?
Article first published online: 25 NOV 2013
© 2013 The Authors. Evolutionary Applications published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Special Issue: Climate change, adaptation and phenotypic plasticity
Volume 7, Issue 1, pages 156–168, January 2014
How to Cite
Teplitsky, C. and Millien, V. (2014), Climate warming and Bergmann's rule through time: is there any evidence?. Evolutionary Applications, 7: 156–168. doi: 10.1111/eva.12129
- Issue published online: 8 JAN 2014
- Article first published online: 25 NOV 2013
- Manuscript Accepted: 10 OCT 2013
- Manuscript Received: 17 APR 2013
- Agence Nationale de la Recherche. Grant Number: ANR-12-ADAP-0006-02-PEPS
- NSERC Discovery
- animal model;
- Bergmann's rule;
- body size;
- climate change;
- natural selection;
- phenotypic plasticity
Climate change is expected to induce many ecological and evolutionary changes. Among these is the hypothesis that climate warming will cause a reduction in body size. This hypothesis stems from Bergmann's rule, a trend whereby species exhibit a smaller body size in warmer climates, and larger body size under colder conditions in endotherms. The mechanisms behind this rule are still debated, and it is not clear whether Bergmann's rule can be extended to predict the effects of climate change through time. We reviewed the primary literature for evidence (i) of a decrease in body size in response to climate warming, (ii) that changing body size is an adaptive response and (iii) that these responses are evolutionary or plastic. We found weak evidence for changes in body size through time as predicted by Bergmann's rule. Only three studies investigated the adaptive nature of these size decreases. Of these, none reported evidence of selection for smaller size or of a genetic basis for the size change, suggesting that size decreases could be due to nonadaptive plasticity in response to changing environmental conditions. More studies are needed before firm conclusions can be drawn about the underlying causes of these changes in body size in response to a warming climate.