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Local climate determines vulnerability to camouflage mismatch in snowshoe hares

Cite this dataset

Zimova, Marketa (2020). Local climate determines vulnerability to camouflage mismatch in snowshoe hares [Dataset]. Dryad.


Aim: Phenological mismatches, when life-events become mistimed with optimal en- vironmental conditions, have become increasingly common under climate change. Population-level susceptibility to mismatches depends on how phenology and pheno- typic plasticity vary across a species’ distributional range. Here, we quantify the envi- ronmental drivers of colour moult phenology, phenotypic plasticity, and the extent of phenological mismatch in seasonal camouflage to assess vulnerability to mismatch in a common North American mammal.
Location: North America.
Time period: 2010–2017.
Major taxa studied: Snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus).
Methods: We used > 5,500 by-catch photographs of snowshoe hares from 448 re- mote camera trap sites at three independent study areas. To quantify moult phenol- ogy and phenotypic plasticity, we used multinomial logistic regression models that incorporated geospatial and high-resolution climate data. We estimated occurrence of camouflage mismatch between hares’ coat colour and the presence and absence of snow over 7 years of monitoring.
Results: Spatial and temporal variation in moult phenology depended on local climate conditions more so than on latitude. First, hares in colder, snowier areas moulted earlier in the fall and later in the spring. Next, hares exhibited phenotypic plasticity in moult phenology in response to annual variation in temperature and snow dura- tion, especially in the spring. Finally, the occurrence of camouflage mismatch varied in space and time; white hares on dark, snowless background occurred primarily during low-snow years in regions characterized by shallow, short-lasting snowpack.
Main conclusions: Long-term climate and annual variation in snow and temperature determine coat colour moult phenology in snowshoe hares. In most areas, climate change leads to shorter snow seasons, but the occurrence of camouflage mismatch varies across the species’ range. Our results underscore the population-specific sus- ceptibility to climate change-induced stressors and the necessity to understand this variation to prioritize the populations most vulnerable under global environmental change.


University of Montana

United States Geological Survey, Award: Department of the Interior Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center,Department of the Interior Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center

North Carolina State University

Division of Environmental Biology, Award: National Science Foundation Division of Environmen,National Science Foundation EPSCoR Award No. 17362

United States Department of the Interior, Award: 8,418,841,907,022

National Science Foundation, Award: EPCSoR 1736249 (OIA-1736249)