Can Snowshoe Hares Evolve to Cope With Climate Change?
The color-changing North American animals may adapt by staying brown for longer periods.
by Emma Marris
There’s something odd about a bright white snowshoe hare motionless and alert—without any hint of snow nearby.
Gleaming white on a brown background of dirt and leaves, the hares, which are native to the mountain ranges of North America, might as well be wearing an “eat me” sign for lynx and other predators.
Scott Mills and Marketa Zimova of North Carolina State University call this “mismatch”—when the hare, which turns from brown to white as the fall becomes winter and back again in spring, doesn’t match its background.
Usually, hares seem to time their color change pretty well. Now the average hare is mismatched only about a week out of the year.But climate change is likely to make such awkward—and potentially fatal—mismatches much more common, the team said this week at the North America Congress for Conservation Biology in Missoula, Montana…
(read more: National Geographic)
photo by Robert Harding/World Imagery/ CORBIS