Declining body size: a third universal response to warming?

Trends Ecol Evol. 2011 Jun;26(6):285-91. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2011.03.005. Epub 2011 Apr 4.


A recently documented correlate of anthropogenic climate change involves reductions in body size, the nature and scale of the pattern leading to suggestions of a third universal response to climate warming. Because body size affects thermoregulation and energetics, changing body size has implications for resilience in the face of climate change. A review of recent studies shows heterogeneity in the magnitude and direction of size responses, exposing a need for large-scale phylogenetically controlled comparative analyses of temporal size change. Integrative analyses of museum data combined with new theoretical models of size-dependent thermoregulatory and metabolic responses will increase both understanding of the underlying mechanisms and physiological consequences of size shifts and, therefore, the ability to predict the sensitivities of species to climate change.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological / physiology*
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Animals
  • Body Size / genetics
  • Body Size / physiology*
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Global Warming*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Species Specificity
  • Temperature