A partnership between the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) 

Can Camouflage Keep up With Climate Change? 
White Hares on Brown Snowless Backgrounds as a Model to Study Adaptation to Climate Stress
Tuesday, July 9, 3:00 PM Eastern
via WebEx (Registration Link Below)
Description:  One of the most important scientific questions for wildlife management in the face of climate change is whether animals will be able to locally adapt, allowing them to persist in place without need for corridors or planned translocations.  We are studying a novel and striking effect of climate change on wildlife, whereby seasonal coat color becomes mismatched with lack of snow.  ‘Adaptation’ to reduced snowpacks could potentially occur through evolutionary changes in the timing of the seasonal molt, or through plasticity (in timing of coat color or in behaviors).  To date we have quantified molt phenology, mismatch, behavioral plasticity, and fitness costs of mismatch for snowshoe hares over 3 years at two sites in Montana.  Based on >450 hares monitored weekly with radiotelemetry, we find some plasticity in the rate of the spring white-to-brown molt, but not in the initiation dates of color change or in the rate of the autumn brown to white molt.  Linking these field data to our global circulation models downscaled to ecologically relevant scales (30m resolution), we predict that without evolution in coat color phenology, the reduced snow duration will increase by 3 – 8 fold the number of days that white hares will be mismatched on a snowless background.  Our ongoing and future work will ultimately combine genomics (study of genetic basis of the coat color change), field data on behaviors and population dynamics, and downscaled climate data to answer the question of whether adaptation can ‘rescue’ a species confronting a strong climate change stressor. 
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