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Data from: Consistent declines in wing lengths of Calidridine sandpipers suggest a rapid morphometric response to environmental change


Anderson, Alexandra M. et al. (2019), Data from: Consistent declines in wing lengths of Calidridine sandpipers suggest a rapid morphometric response to environmental change, Dryad, Dataset,


A recent study demonstrated that semipalmated sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) wing lengths have shortened from the 1980s to the present-day. We examined alternative and untested hypotheses for this change at an important stopover site, James Bay, Ontario, Canada. We evaluated morphometric patterns in wing length and bill length by age and sex, when possible, and assessed if wing shape has also changed during this time-period. We investigated patterns of morphological change in two additional Calidridine sandpipers, white-rumped sandpipers (Calidris fuscicollis) and least sandpipers (Calidris minutilla), to determine if shorter wing lengths are a widespread pattern in small sandpipers. We also examined allometric changes in wing and bill lengths to clarify if wing length declines were consistent with historical scaling relationships and indicative of a change in body size instead of only wing length change. We found that including sex and wing shape in analyses revealed important patterns in morphometric change for semipalmated sandpipers. Wing lengths declined for both sexes, but the magnitude of decline was smaller and not significant for males. Additionally, semipalmated sandpiper wings have become more convex, a shape that increases maneuverability in flight. Wing lengths, but not bill lengths, declined for most species and age classes, a pattern that was inconsistent with historical allometric scaling relationships. For juvenile semipalmated sandpipers, however, both bill and wing lengths declined according to historical scaling relationships, which could be a consequence of nutritional stress during development or a shift in the proportion of birds from smaller-sized, western breeding populations. Except for juvenile semipalmated sandpipers, we did not find evidence for an increase in the proportion of birds from different breeding populations at the stopover site. Given the wide, hemispheric distribution of these sandpipers throughout their annual cycles, our results, paired with those from a previous study, provide evidence for wide-spread reduction in wing lengths of Calidridine sandpipers since the 1980s. The shorter wing lengths and more convex wing shapes found in this study support the hypothesis that selection has favored more maneuverable wing morphology in small sandpipers.

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James Bay