Body size differentiation may have developed in response to environmental gradients. A pattern of large individuals prevailing in colder areas is often observed and is explained by the heat conservation hypothesis (Bergmann's rule). To understand patterns driving body size variation in a pelagic seabird, the European Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus, we examined the relationship between wing length, body mass and environmental variables in breeding areas (sea surface temperature, air temperature and wind speed). As this species has been divided into two subspecies: Mediterranean H. p. melitensis and Atlantic H. p. pelagicus, we performed the analyses at different scales (species, Atlantic subspecies and regional North Atlantic). At the species and subspecies scales, there was a longitudinal increase in wing length from west to east. At the subspecies and regional scale, we found a latitudinal increase in this variable from south to north. This result and the significant increase of wing length with decreasing sea surface and air temperatures are concordant with Bergmann's rule. In addition, body mass at the species and subspecies scales decreased with increasing wind speed, what may have a functional implication (small body mass may increase manoeuvrability over waves in conditions of stronger wind). Both genetic (two subspecies differing in body size) and environmental factors seem to be important forces driving intercolony variation in body size. Our study on sexual size dimorphism (SSD) revealed that in 156 molecularly sexed adults from the Faeroes, wing and tail length, and body mass exhibited female-biased SSD, while head-bill length showed male-biased SSD. The best discriminant function for sexing based on body measurements correctly classified 75% of individuals. Considering low correctness of proposed functions and geographical variation of body size, use of alternative methods (e.g. molecular tools) is recommended for sex discrimination in the European Storm Petrel.
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Vol. 49 • No. 1