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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Two New Publications about Climate Impacts on Color-changing Mammals

Thursday, March 8, 2018
Arctic Fox

NE CSC Graduate Fellow, Marketa Zimova, published two papers on how the worldwide decrease in snow cover already may have dramatic impacts on animals that change coat colors with the seasons. Marketa has been working towards a PhD studying species' responses to climate change, investigating hares and adaptation to decreasing snow cover. She was a fellow at the Southeat CSC while she completed this work.

In the recently published article researchers identified areas that could aid species particularly vulnerable to climate change. Twenty-one species undergo a seasonal color molt from summer brown to winter white as camouflage against snow, while other individuals remain brown. Recently climate change has been warming the Northern Hemisphere causing less snowfall, as a result hares and foxes increasingly find themselves in mismatch with their environment. In the study the international team mapped polymorphic zones for eight color-changing species, including hares, weasels and the Arctic fox. The goal of the project was to determine where species were the most vulnerable, and how coat-changing animals might be able to survive climate change.

K Hackländer, PC Alves, JM Good, et al. 2018.  Winter color polymorphisms identify global hot spots for evolutionary rescue from climate change. Science, Feb-03-2018, Volume 359, Issue 6379, p.1033 - 1036. 

Zimova, M, K Hackländer, JM Good, J Melo-Ferreira, PC Alves, and LS Mills. 2018. Function and underlying mechanisms of seasonal colour moulting in mammals and birds: what keeps them changing in a warming world?  Biological Reviews, May-03-2018.


Written by Mira Heckmann, NE CSC Communicaitons Intern