Recurrent evolution of winter coat color polymorphism in mountain hares

Iwona Giska (Contributor), João Pimenta (Contributor), Liliana Farelo (Contributor), Mafalda Ferreira (Contributor), Fernando Seixas (Contributor), João Marques (Contributor), Inês Miranda (Contributor), Jérôme Letty (Contributor), Hannes Jenny (Contributor), Klaus Hackländer (Contributor), Paulo C Alves (Contributor), Reid, N. (Contributor), Prodohl, P. (Contributor), Eyðfinn Magnussen (Contributor), José Melo-Ferreira (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Understanding the emergence of phenotypic polymorphism that impacts the adaptive potential of species is a major endeavor of evolutionary biology. Several boreal mammals are adapted to snow seasonality by changing the colour of their coat from summer-brown to winter-white to remain camouflaged year-round. However, winter coat colour is often polymorphic in these species, with specimens in some populations showing alternative winter colour, such as grey or brown, presumably reflecting local adaptation to milder snow conditions. Here we study the evolution of winter coat color polymorphism in the mountain hare (Lepus timidus). While in most of the species range mountain hares molt to winter-white coats, in Ireland mountain hares remain brown year-round and in the Faroe Islands hares display a winter-grey morph. Through whole-genome scans of differentiation and selection we mapped this polymorphism to a few genomic regions and confirmed the identified associations with SNP genotyping. Most of these regions have signatures of selective sweeps, in keeping with the hypothesis of local adaptation for winter coat colour. The genomic associations with non-white winter morphs differ in Irish and Faroese hares, suggesting independent evolution of alternative adaptive phenotypes. Our findings show that diverse evolutionary pathways, including introgression, underlie the origin and evolution of alternative colour morhps in the species.
PeriodJul 2020
Event title6th World Lagomorph Conference
Event typeConference
LocationMontpellier, France
Degree of RecognitionInternational