Will Snowshoe Hares Win a Race Between Evolution and Climate Change?

Published 23 Feb 2018, 10:16 GMT
Will Snowshoe Hares Win a Race Between Evolution and Climate Change?

When winter nears, a subdued brown coat turns dazzling white in many—although not all—snowshoe hares. But the camouflage can’t work without snow. And length of daylight, not snowfall, triggers molting.

Scott Mills and colleagues at the University of Montana study snowshoe hares from a population in Washington state, where some change colour seasonally, and others stay brown all year—better if there’s less snow.

The research shows that regions where genes for winter-white and winter-brown coats coexist allow natural selection for new, less snowy conditions. The scientists recommend protecting habitat in these evolutionary hotspots.

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