BOONE, N.C. — Congratulations to Dr. Marketa Zimova, assistant professor in the Appalachian State Department of Biology, on the publication of two studies in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Biology Letters.
Title: Color Molt Phenology and Camouflage Mismatch in Polymorphic Populations of Arctic Foxes
Authors: Marketa Zimova, Dick Moberg, L. Scott Mills, Andreas J. Dietz and Anders Angerbjörn
Species that seasonally molt 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 color molt phenology and or evolutionary shifts in molt rate or timing. Also, adaptation may include evolutionary shifts towards winter brown phenotypes that forgo the winter white molt. 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 molt phenology and mismatch in two polymorphic populations of Arctic foxes in Sweden over 2 years. We found that the colder, more northern population molted earlier in the autumn and later in the spring. Next, foxes molted earlier in the autumn 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 autumn 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.
Title: Temperature, Size and Developmental Plasticity in Birds
Authors: Brian C. Weeks, Madeleine Klemz, Haruka Wada, Rachel Darling, Tiffany Dias, Bruce K. O’Brien, Charlotte M. Probst, Mingyu Zhang and Marketa Zimova
As temperatures increase, there is growing evidence that species across much of the tree of life are getting smaller. These climate change-driven size reductions are often interpreted as a temporal analog of the observation that individuals within a species tend to be smaller in the warmer parts of the species’ range. For ectotherms, there has been a broad effort to understand the role of developmental plasticity in temperature-size relationships, but in endotherms, this mechanism has received relatively little attention in favor of selection-based explanations. We review the evidence for a role of developmental plasticity in warming-driven size reductions in birds and highlight insulin-like growth factors as a potential mechanism underlying plastic responses to temperature in endotherms. We find that, as with ectotherms, changes in temperature during development can result in shifts in body size in birds, with size reductions associated with warmer temperatures being the most frequent association. This suggests developmental plasticity may be an important, but largely overlooked, mechanism underlying warming-driven size reductions in endotherms. Plasticity and natural selection have very different constraining forces, thus understanding the mechanism linking temperature and body size in endotherms has broad implications for predicting future impacts of climate change on biodiversity.
Zimova earned her Ph.D. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana. After completing her postdoctoral work at the University of Michigan's Institute for Global Change Biology, she joined the Appalachian State Department of Biology in 2021. Zimova, an applied evolutionary biologist, studies the effects of global anthropogenic change on biodiversity. Her research uses a combination of field data and population modeling to quantify consequences of environmental stressors on wild populations and to provide management recommendations for fostering adaptation. To learn more about Zimova's research, visit her website: www.marketazimova.com.
About the Department of Biology
The Department of Biology is a community of teacher-scholars, with faculty representing the full breadth of biological specializations — from molecular genetics to landscape/ecosystem ecology. The department seeks to produce graduates with sound scientific knowledge, the skills to create new knowledge, and the excitement and appreciation of scientific discovery. Learn more at https://biology.appstate.edu.
By Lauren Andersen and Marketa Zimova
December 14, 2022