Adaptive introgression underlies polymorphic seasonal camouflage in snowshoe hares

Matthew R. Jones, L. Scott Mills, Paulo Célio Alves, Colin M. Callahan, Joel M. Alves, Diana J.R. Lafferty, Francis M. Jiggins, Jeffrey D. Jensen, José Melo-Ferreira, Jeffrey M. Good

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

171 Scopus citations


Snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) maintain seasonal camouflage by molting to a white winter coat, but some hares remain brown during the winter in regions with low snow cover. We show that cis-regulatory variation controlling seasonal expression of the Agouti gene underlies this adaptive winter camouflage polymorphism. Genetic variation at Agouti clustered by winter coat color across multiple hare and jackrabbit species, revealing a history of recurrent interspecific gene flow. Brown winter coats in snowshoe hares likely originated from an introgressed black-tailed jackrabbit allele that has swept to high frequency in mild winter environments. These discoveries show that introgression of genetic variants that underlie key ecological traits can seed past and ongoing adaptation to rapidly changing environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1355-1358
Number of pages4
Issue number6395
StatePublished - Jun 22 2018


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