Function and underlying mechanisms of seasonal colour moulting in mammals and birds: what keeps them changing in a warming world?

TitleFunction and underlying mechanisms of seasonal colour moulting in mammals and birds: what keeps them changing in a warming world?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsZimova, Marketa, Hackländer Klaus, Good Jeffrey M., Melo-Ferreira José, Alves Paulo Célio, and L. Mills Scott
JournalBiological Reviews
Date PublishedMay-03-2018
Keywordsadaptation, climate change, molting, warming
Abstract

Animals that occupy temperate and polar regions have specialized traits that help them survive in harsh, highly seasonal environments. One particularly important adaptation is seasonal coat color (SCC) molting. Over 20 species of birds and mammals distributed across the northern hemisphere undergo complete, biannual color change from brown in the summer to completely white in the winter. But as climate change decreases duration of snow cover, seasonally winter white species (including the snowshoe hare Lepus americanus, Arctic fox Vulpes lagopus and willow ptarmigan Lagopus lagopus) become highly contrasted against dark snowless backgrounds. The negative consequences of camouflage mismatch and adaptive potential is of high interest for conservation. Here we provide the first comprehensive review across birds and mammals of the adaptive value and mechanisms underpinning SCC molting. We found that across species, the main function of SCC mounts is seasonal camouflage against snow, and photoperiod is the main driver of the mount phenology. Next, although many underlying mechanisms remain unclear, mammalian species share similarities in some aspects of hair growth, neuroendocrine control, and the effects of intrinsic and extrinsic factors on mount phenology. The underlying basis of SCC mounts in birds is less understood and differs from mammals in several aspects. Lastly, our synthesis suggests that due to limited plasticity in SCC molting, evolutionary adaptation will be necessary to mediate future camouflage mismatch and a detailed understanding of the SCC molting will be needed to manage populations effectively under climate change

URLhttp://doi.wiley.com/10.1111/brv.12405
DOI10.1111/brv.12405
Short TitleBiol Rev