A new, complete dataset of comprehensive functional trait for all birds, called AVONET, containing measurements of more than 90,000 individual birds has been released courtesy an international effort. This would serve as an excellent resource for teaching and research across a wide range of fields like evolution, ecology, biodiversity and conservation in the life sciences.
Morphological characteristics function in tandem with the ecological features in defining performance or fitness of an organism in an environment. This understanding of functional traits is central to the field of evolution and ecology. The analysis of variation in functional traits is very helpful in describing evolution, community ecology and ecosystem. However, this requires wide datasets of morphological traits though comprehensive sampling of morphological traits at the species level.
So far, body mass has been the focus of datasets on morphological traits for animals which has limitations meaning the understanding of functional biology for animals especially birds have been largely incomplete.
A new, complete database on birds, called AVONET, containing measurements of more than 90,000 individual birds has been released courtesy an international effort of researchers.
Most of the measurements for the database were done on the museum specimens collected over a long period of time. For each individual birds nine morphological traits were measured (four beak measurements, three wing measurements, tail length and lower leg measurements). The data base includes two derived measurements, body mass and hand-wing index which are calculated from three wing measurements. These derived measurements give an idea of flight efficiency which is an indicator of the ability of the species to disperse or move across the landscape. Overall, the measurements of the traits (particularly of beaks, wings and legs) correlate with important ecological features of species, including their feeding behaviour.
AVONET will be an excellent source of information for teaching and research across a wide range of fields like ecology, biodiversity and conservation in the life sciences. This will come handy in investigating ‘rules’ in evolution. The derived measurements like the hand-wing index reflect on the dispersal ability of the species to suitable climate zones. The database will also help to understand and predict response of the ecosystems to the changes in environment.
In future, the database will be expanded to include more measurements for each species and information about life history and behaviour.
Tobias J.A. et al 2022. AVONET: morphological, ecological and geographical data for all birds. Ecology Letters Volume 25, Issue 3 p. 581-597. First published: 24 February 2022. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.13898
Tobias J.A. 2022. A bird in the hand: Global-scale morphological trait datasets open new frontiers of ecology, evolution and ecosystem science. Ecology Letters. Volume 25, Issue 3 p. 573-580. First published: 24 February 2022. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.13960.