The evolution of white-tailed jackrabbit camouflage in response to past and future seasonal climates

Mafalda S. Ferreira, Timothy J. Thurman, Matthew R. Jones, Liliana Farelo, Alexander V. Kumar, Sebastian M.E. Mortimer, John R. Demboski, L. Scott Mills, Paulo C. Alves, José Melo-Ferreira, Jeffrey M. Good

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

The genetic basis of adaptive traits has rarely been used to predict future vulnerability of populations to climate change. We show that light versus dark seasonal pelage in white-tailed jackrabbits (Lepus townsendii) tracks snow cover and is primarily determined by genetic variation at endothelin receptor type B (EDNRB), corin serine peptidase (CORIN), and agouti signaling protein (ASIP). Winter color variation was associated with deeply divergent alleles at these genes, reflecting selection on both ancestral and introgressed variation. Forecasted reductions in snow cover are likely to induce widespread camouflage mismatch. However, simulated populations with variation for darker winter pelage are predicted to adapt rapidly, providing a trait-based genetic framework to facilitate evolutionary rescue. These discoveries demonstrate how the genetic basis of climate change adaptation can inform conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1238-1242
Number of pages5
JournalScience
Volume379
Issue number6638
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 24 2023

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