Of the approximately 9500 bird species, the vast majority is small-bodied. That is a general feature of evolutionary lineages, also observed for instance in mammals and plants. The avian interspecific body size distribution is right-skewed even on a logarithmic scale. That has previously been interpreted as evidence that body size evolution has been biased. However, a procedure to test for unbiased evolution from the shape of body size distributions was lacking. In the present paper unbiased body size evolution is defined precisely, and a statistical test is developed based on Monte Carlo simulation of unbiased evolution. Application of the test to birds suggests that it is highly unlikely that avian body size evolution has been unbiased as defined. Several possible explanations for this result are discussed. A plausible explanation is that the general model of unbiased evolution assumes that population size and generation time do not affect the evolutionary variability of body size; that is, that micro- and macroevolution are decoupled, which theory suggests is not likely to be the case.
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Vol. 56 • No. 12