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Study says global warming shrinks birds

Scientists found that eight species had become between 2 to 4 percent smaller over the past century.

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Some species of Australian birds are shrinking, and the trend will likely continue because of global warming, a scientist said Sunday.

Janet Gardner, an Australian National University biologist, led a team of scientists who measured museum specimens to plot the decline in size of eight species of Australian birds over the past century.

The research, published last week in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, found that the birds in Australia's southeast had become between 2 percent to 4 percent smaller.

Over the same century, Australia's average daily temperature rose 1.3 degrees F. (0.7 degrees C), with the sharpest increase since the 1950s.

The research concluded that the birds were likely downsizing because smaller bodies shed heat faster than larger ones.

"It's the broad-scale, consistent pattern that we're seeing that makes us conclude that global warming is likely to be causing the changes," Dr. Gardner told The Associated Press.

She said she suspected that other Australian birds beyond the species studied were also shrinking and the trend will accelerate in the future as a result of global climate change.

"Simply because the predictions are that the warming is going to increase over the coming decades, so you might expect this (shrinking) response to increase as well," Gardner said.

Michael Kearney, a Melbourne University zoologist who is independent of the research, described its findings as both alarming and providing some hope for the future.


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