The Media Line led over twenty years ago in pioneering the American independent news agency in the Middle East, arguably the first in the region. We have always stayed true to our mission: to provide you with contextual sourced and trustworthy news. In an age of fake news masquerading as journalism, The Media Line plays a crucial role in providing fact-based news that deserves your support.

We're proud of the dozens of young students we've trained in our Press and Policy Student Program who will form the vanguard of the next generation of journalists to the benefit of countless millions of news readers.

Look out for exciting new additions as we enter 2022.

We thank our loyal readers and wish you all the happiest of holidays.
The Media Line

Non-profit news needs public support.
Please support us with your generous contributions:
Birds in Israel Are ‘Shape-shifting’ Due to Global Warming, Study Finds
Historical bird specimens from the collection of the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History. (Courtesy)

Birds in Israel Are ‘Shape-shifting’ Due to Global Warming, Study Finds

Tel Aviv University researchers find morphological changes in more than half of bird species that enable them to better cope with heat

Birds in Israel have changed their body shapes in the past 70 years as a result of global warming, researchers have found.

In a comprehensive study, researchers at Tel Aviv University examined roughly 8,000 adult bird specimens from 106 different species – including migratory birds that pass through Israel annually – and found that the bodies of more than half of them had become either longer or thinner in recent decades. The body mass of some species decreased, while the body length of others increased, thereby boosting the ratio between surface area and volume.

Researchers believe these changes could be a way for birds to shed heat as temperatures rise.

Professor Shai Meiri of Tel Aviv University’s School of Zoology led the study together with doctoral student Shahar Dubiner and the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History in Tel Aviv. The findings were recently published in the scientific journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.

Meiri told The Media Line that the researchers relied on the Steinhardt Museum’s extensive collection of specimens to conduct their research.

“What surprised us was that there were seemingly two ways for birds to change: either reduce their weight or increase their length,” Meiri said. “We had a vague notion that climate change may be doing something, now we may have more reason to think that it may be making things worse. It calls for further research; it certainly is not a happy finding.”

Doctoral student Shahar Dubiner, left, and Professor Shai Meiri of Tel Aviv University’s School of Zoology. (Courtesy)

Using a complex statistical model, the scientists found that the mass of birds decreased by 18.3%, their length increased by 5.1%, and their surface-area-to-volume ratio increased by 28.9% over the last 70 years. Significantly, the latter increase also corresponds to a 12.2% raise per degree Celsius in warming.

Researchers saw these changes in Israeli non-migratory birds as well as migratory birds coming from Europe, Asia, and Africa, suggesting that the phenomenon is global in nature.

“We can’t say yet that [birds are] in danger, but they are changing,” Meiri said. “If they’re changing and becoming thinner it may well be that they are in worse physical condition. This is certainly pointing to a potential danger, but it needs further verification.”

Meiri explained that, according to Bergmann’s rule, which was first posited in the 19th century, birds and mammal species living in cold climates tend to be larger than members of the same species living in warmer climates. This is due to the fact that the bodies of smaller animals permit more heat loss, which is an advantage in warmer areas, whereas those living in colder climates tend to have larger bodies in order to minimize heat loss.

Based on this rule, scientists have predicted that global warming would lead to a reduction in animal size, with some exceptions.

Dubiner, who also led the study, told The Media Line that the study ultimately provides evidence of how climate change is already affecting organisms and their morphology.

“The importance was to show unequivocally that this is how birds are being affected and that there is a strong link to climate change,” Dubiner said. “Now that this question has pretty much been answered we can transition to trying to understand the consequences.”

Historical bird specimens from the collection of the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History. (Courtesy)

The findings further raise concerns that birds will be unable to keep adapting to rising temperatures, and will run out of effective solutions as the planet heats up. Meiri and Dubiner hope that other experts will use their research for future study.

“Our findings indicate that global warming causes fast and significant changes in bird morphology,” Dubiner said. “There are limits to how much birds can keep changing and we need to understand what happens if selection pressures start to build up. Each species reacts very differently to temperature differences.”

 

 

Did you know we’re celebrating our 20th Anniversary as the 1st American News Agency exclusively covering the Middle East?

  • The Middle East landscape is changing rapidly.
  • The roads in the region open to new possibilities.
  • The Media Line continues to pave the way to a far greater understanding of the region’s land, people, policies and governments through our trusted, fact-based news.

We’re an independent, ad-free, non-profit news agency and rely on friends like you!

Please make your gift today.
Thank you!

We paved the way to be the Trusted Mid East News you can rely on!

We’re an independent, ad-free, non-profit news agency and rely on friends like you!

Invest in the
Trusted Mideast
News source.
We are on the
front lines.

Personalize Your News
Upgrade your experience by choosing the categories that matter most to you.
Click on the icon to add the category to your Personalize news
Browse Categories and Topics
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.