Imperial College London


Faculty of Natural SciencesDepartment of Life Sciences (Silwood Park)

Reader in Biodiversity and Ecosystems



+44 (0)20 7594 1059j.tobias




KennedySilwood Park






BibTex format

author = {Pigot, AL and Sheard, C and Miller, ET and Bregman, TP and Freeman, BG and Roll, U and Seddon, N and Trisos, CH and Weeks, BC and Tobias, JA},
doi = {10.1038/s41559-019-1070-4},
journal = {Nature Ecology and Evolution},
pages = {230--239},
title = {Macroevolutionary convergence connects morphological form to ecological function in birds},
url = {},
volume = {4},
year = {2020}

RIS format (EndNote, RefMan)

AB - Animals have diversified into a bewildering variety of morphological forms exploiting a complex configuration of trophic niches. Their morphological diversity is widely used as an index of ecosystem function, but the extent to which animal traits predict trophic niches and associated ecological processes is unclear. Here we use the measurements of nine key morphological traits for >99% bird species to show that avian trophic diversity is described by a trait space with four dimensions. The position of species within this space maps with 70–85% accuracy onto major niche axes, including trophic level, dietary resource type and finer-scale variation in foraging behaviour. Phylogenetic analyses reveal that these form–function associations reflect convergence towards predictable trait combinations, indicating that morphological variation is organized into a limited set of dimensions by evolutionary adaptation. Our results establish the minimum dimensionality required for avian functional traits to predict subtle variation in trophic niches and provide a global framework for exploring the origin, function and conservation of bird diversity.
AU - Pigot,AL
AU - Sheard,C
AU - Miller,ET
AU - Bregman,TP
AU - Freeman,BG
AU - Roll,U
AU - Seddon,N
AU - Trisos,CH
AU - Weeks,BC
AU - Tobias,JA
DO - 10.1038/s41559-019-1070-4
EP - 239
PY - 2020///
SN - 2397-334X
SP - 230
TI - Macroevolutionary convergence connects morphological form to ecological function in birds
T2 - Nature Ecology and Evolution
UR -
UR -
UR -
UR -
VL - 4
ER -