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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Snow cover-related camouflage mismatch increases detection by predators

Otte, Pieter J.; Cromsigt, Joris P. G. M.; Smit, Christian; Hofmeester, Tim R.


Camouflage expressed by animals is an adaptation to local environments that certain animals express to maximize survival and fitness. Animals at higher latitudes change their coat color according to a seasonally changing environment, expressing a white coat in winter and a darker coat in summer. The timing of molting is tightly linked to the appearance and disappearance of snow and is mainly regulated by photoperiod. However, due to climate change, an increasing mismatch is observed between the coat color of these species and their environment. Here, we conducted an experiment in northern Sweden, with white and brown decoys to study how camouflage (mis)-match influenced (1) predator attraction to decoys, and (2) predation events. Using camera trap data, we showed that mismatching decoys attracted more predators and experienced a higher likelihood of predation events in comparison to matching decoys, suggesting that camouflage mismatched animals experience increased detection by predators. These results provide insight into the function of a seasonal color coat and the need for this adaptation to maximize fitness in an environment that is exposed to high seasonality. Thus, our results suggest that, with increasing climate change and reduced snow cover, animals expressing a seasonal color coat will experience a decrease in survival.Camouflage mismatched animals experience higher predator attraction and faster predator events in comparison to matched decoys.imageCamouflage mismatched decoys attracted more predators in comparison to camouflage matched decoys.Camouflage mismatched decoys experienced a higher likelihood and faster occurrence of predator events than matched decoys.


adaptation; climate change; coat color; predation; survival

Published in

Journal Of Experimental Zoology Part A:Ecological And Integrative Physiology
2024, Volume: 341, number: 4, pages: 327-337