Blair Wolf is an associate professor of biology at the University of New Mexico. Research in the Wolf lab focuses on the natural history and ecophysiology of desert animals. He agreed to blog with Dr. Dolittle on the topic of birds. Here is the final excerpt from their exchange.
Dr. Dolittle: Would you predict that with global warming, the average body size of birds will increase in hotter areas like the southwestern United States and Australia? Why? What will this mean to the ecosystems of the areas? What else do you forsee?
Dr. Wolf: Given the apparent importance of heat stroke and the unknown affects of body size on this phenomenon, I do not predict increasing body sizes in birds living in hot regions. What I currently see are increasing die-off events where large areas are affected and major portions of a given bird community may be wiped out. When these events are combined with increasing droughts, whole regions could lose a large part of their bird community. These "Holocausts" have been observed and recorded in Australia early in the last century, where long droughts and high temperatures resulted in the disappearance of some birds from whole regions for decades.