Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Colour moult phenology and camouflage mismatch in polymorphic populations of Arctic foxes

Citation

Zimova, Marketa; Moberg, Dick (2022), Colour moult phenology and camouflage mismatch in polymorphic populations of Arctic foxes, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.djh9w0w3n

Abstract

Species that seasonally moult from brown to white to match snowy backgrounds become conspicuous and experience increased predation risk as snow cover duration declines. Long-term adaptation to camouflage mismatch in a changing climate might occur through phenotypic plasticity in colour moult phenology and or evolutionary shifts in moult rate or timing. Also, adaptation may include evolutionary shifts towards winter brown phenotypes that forgo the winter white moult. Most studies of these processes have occurred in winter white populations, with little attention to polymorphic populations with sympatric winter brown and winter white morphs. Here, we used remote camera traps to record moult phenology and mismatch in two polymorphic populations of Arctic foxes in Sweden over 2 years. We found that the colder, more northern population moulted earlier in the fall and later in the spring. Next, foxes moulted earlier in the fall and later in the spring during colder and snowier years. Finally, white foxes experienced relatively low camouflage mismatch while blue foxes were mismatched against snowy backgrounds most of the fall through the spring. Because the brown-on-white mismatch imposes no evident costs, we predict that as snow duration decreases, increasing blue morph frequencies might help facilitate species persistence.

Funding

National Science Foundation