• Climate change;
  • ecogeographical rules;
  • morphology;
  • seabirds;
  • thermoregulation

Ecogeographical rules provide potential to describe how organisms are morphologically constrained to climatic conditions. Allen's rule (relatively shorter appendages in colder environments) remains largely unsupported and there remains much controversy whether reduced surface area of appendages provides energetic savings sufficient to make this morphological trend truly adaptive. By showing for the first time that Allen's rule holds for closely related endothermic species, we provide persuasive support of the adaptive significance of this trend for multiple species. Our results indicate that reduction of thermoregulatory cost during the coldest part of the breeding season is the most likely mechanism driving Allen's rule for these species. Because for 54% of seabird species examined, rise in seasonal maximum temperature over 100 years will exceed that for minimum temperatures, an evolutionary mismatch will arise between selection for limb length reduction and ability to accommodate heat stress.