Higher temperatures during development reduce body size in the zebra finch in the laboratory and in the wild

S. C. Andrew*, L. L. Hurley, M. M. Mariette, S. C. Griffith

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    41 Citations (Scopus)
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    The most commonly documented morphological response across many taxa to climatic variation across their range follows Bergmann's rule, which predicts larger body size in colder climates. In observational data from wild zebra finches breeding across a range of temperatures in the spring and summer, we show that this relationship appears to be driven by the negative effect of high temperatures during development. This idea was then experimentally tested on zebra finches breeding in temperature-controlled climates in the laboratory. These experiments confirmed that those individualso produced in a hot environment (30 °C) were smaller than those produced in cool conditions (18 °C). Our results suggest a proximate causal link between temperature and body size and suggest that a hotter climate during breeding periods could drive significant changes in morphology within and between populations. This effect could account for much of the variation in body size that drives the well-observed patterns first described by Bergmann and that is still largely attributed to selection on adult body size during cold winters. The climate-dependent developmental plasticity that we have demonstrated is an important component in understanding how endotherms may be affected by climate change.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2156-2164
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
    Issue number12
    Early online date2017
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


    • Taeniopygia guttata
    • Bergmann's rule
    • morphology
    • phenotypic plasticity


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