The Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change

is a research museum of the Leibniz Association

Ecomorphology in birds



Quick facts

Project title: 
Evolution of ecomorphological traits in birds
ZFMK Project lead: 
Object of research: 


Often morphological traits of a species represent a long-term response to ecological pressures acting on them in their habitat. As ecosystems evolve, species’ traits will adapt to fill the newly available ecological niches. Examining the morphology of a species can therefore clarify aspects of their ecology and provide a more accurate representation of environmental conditions than may be achieved with more direct measurements of the ecological niche.

In this project we investigate the evolution of ecomorphological traits in eight avian clades and link them to their ecology. We combine macroecological and macroevolutionary perspectives to provide an improved understanding of the processes that shape the evolution of ecological niches in response to changing environmental conditions, and therefore ultimately determine whether there is a correlation between the evolution of climatic niches and trait evolution. The results of this project can be applied to future research in predicting species’ ecological responses to environmental change, such as range movement or restrictions in distribution. Furthermore, this research can provide crucial information on the rate of trait evolution in current niches, and further our understanding of the processes that influence this evolution. Additionally, the results may be applied to the conservation of endangered species by illustrating the importance of focusing on a central niche in which the species is likely to persist, instead of implementing plans for a highly variable part of the niche with high rates of interspecific competition.  

This project is conducted as a co-operation between the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Frankfurt (BiK-F) and the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig (ZFMK), with the bulk of data collected from specimens at ZFMK.