Color-Changing Hare Can’t Keep Up With Climate Change
by Elizabeth Pennisi
For hares, fashion is a life or death proposition. Whereas Peter Rabbit could always jump down his hole to escape a fox, his cousin, the hare, has to rely on blending in with his environment to avoid detection. But as the climate warms, hares may no longer be able to stay in sync with their environment, according to a new study. The animals will be switching from earthy brown to snowy white or vice versa at the wrong time and becoming targets for hungry predators.
After more than a decade of studying snowshoe hares in the Rocky Mountains, L. Scott Mills, a wildlife biologist at the University of Montana, Missoula, noticed that the animals were beginning to stick out more than usual. In winter their coats turn white; in summer they are a mottled brown. But Mills was beginning to see white hares on brown backgrounds…