Global change and carnivore body size: data are stasis

Authors


*Correspondence: Shai Meiri, NERC Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, Ascot, Berkshire, SL5 7PY, UK. E-mail: s.meiri@imperial.ac.uk

ABSTRACT

Aim  Global warming and other anthropogenic changes to the environment affect many aspects of biology and have often been invoked as causing body size changes in vertebrates. Here we examine a diverse set of carnivore populations in search of patterns in body size change that could reflect global warming (in accord with Bergmann's rule).

Location  Global.

Methods  We used > 4400 specimens representing 22 carnivore species in 52 populations collected over the last few decades to examine whether size changed with collection date when geography and sex are accounted for. We then examined several factors related to global warming, body mass, diet, and the attributes of the different datasets, to see whether they affect the standardized slope (β) of the size versus time regression.

Results  Six of 52 populations we examined show a significant effect of year of collection on body size at the 0.05 probability level. The response of size to global warming does not reflect spatial patterns of size variation, nor do diet or body mass affect tendency of populations to change in body size. Size changes are no more pronounced in populations that have been sampled more recently. However, change, where it occurs, is rapid.

Main conclusions  There may be a tendency in the literature to report only cases where recent changes are prevalent. Although in our data only a minority of populations show body size changes, we may see changes accelerating in the future in response to more drastic climatic changes and other anthropogenic changes.

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