Presentation Type

Presentation

Faculty Mentor’s Full Name

Dr. L. Scott Mills

Faculty Mentor’s Department

Research and Creative Scholarship

Abstract

Snowshoe hares seasonally molt from a brown pelage in the summer to a white pelage in the winter. This coat color change allows them to maintain camouflage needed for survival. Climate change threatens snowshoe hares by increasing the number of days individuals are white on a brown background, thereby decreasing defense effectiveness and increasing the likelihood of predation. It is unknown whether or not snowshoe hares will genetically adapt as quickly as climate change is occurring. Behavioral plasticity, however, is a mechanism that may allow this species to quickly adapt to fewer days of snowpack. To investigate the tendency for behavioral plasticity in snowshoe hares, I used captive snowshoe hares to test whether or not they can recognize their own camouflage mismatch and select ground cover that matches their coat color in both the presence and absence of a simulated predator. From both predator absent and predator present surveillance data, I was able to determine that snowshoe hares may have a tendency to select backgrounds that aid in camouflage but do not behave in ways that would increase their likelihood of avoiding predation.

Category

Life Sciences

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Apr 17th, 2:40 PM Apr 17th, 3:00 PM

Behavioral Plasticity to Reduce Camouflage Mismatch in Snowshoe Hares

UC 331

Snowshoe hares seasonally molt from a brown pelage in the summer to a white pelage in the winter. This coat color change allows them to maintain camouflage needed for survival. Climate change threatens snowshoe hares by increasing the number of days individuals are white on a brown background, thereby decreasing defense effectiveness and increasing the likelihood of predation. It is unknown whether or not snowshoe hares will genetically adapt as quickly as climate change is occurring. Behavioral plasticity, however, is a mechanism that may allow this species to quickly adapt to fewer days of snowpack. To investigate the tendency for behavioral plasticity in snowshoe hares, I used captive snowshoe hares to test whether or not they can recognize their own camouflage mismatch and select ground cover that matches their coat color in both the presence and absence of a simulated predator. From both predator absent and predator present surveillance data, I was able to determine that snowshoe hares may have a tendency to select backgrounds that aid in camouflage but do not behave in ways that would increase their likelihood of avoiding predation.