Integrative Organismal Biology, 2021
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Abstract Wing shape plays a critical role in flight function in birds and other powered fliers and has been shown to be correlated with flight performance, migratory distance, and the biomechanics of generating lift during flight. Avian wing shape and flight mechanics have also been shown to be associated with general foraging behavior and habitat choice. We aim to determine if wing shape in waterbirds, a functionally and ecologically diverse assemblage united by their coastal and aquatic habitats, is correlated with various functional and ecological traits. We applied geometric morphometric approaches to the spread wings of a selection of waterbirds to search for evolutionary patterns between wing shape and foraging behavior, habitat and migratory patterns. We found strong evidence of convergent evolution of high and low aspect ratio wing shapes in multiple clades. Foraging behavior also consistently exhibits strong evolutionary correlations with wing shape. Habitat, migration and flight style, in contrast, do not exhibit significant correlation with wing shape in waterbirds. Although wing shape is critical to aerial flight function, its relationship to habitat and periodic locomotor demands such as migration is complex.