Mafalda Sousa Ferreira (CIBIO-InBIO/UP) | April 29, 2016 | 14h30 | CIBIO-InBIO’s Auditorium, Campus Agrário de Vairão




Rapid environmental change is, for many species, the beginning of a race towards three possible finish lines: migration, adaptation or extinction. In boreal habitats, where climate change has been steadily reducing the amount of snow fall, seasonal coat color changing animals that alternate between a white-winter and a brown-summer coat increasingly face periods of mismatch in crypsis with a measurable fitness cost. How will the new conditions dictate the fate of these species is now a pressing question that we can begin to address by studying the genetic determinants of this fascinating adaptation. In this work, we use transcriptomics to capture the molecular machinery of seasonal coat color change using natural populations from two hare species: snowshoe hares, Lepus americanus, and mountain hares, L. timidus. By tracking the gene expression changes along the molting developmental timeline we successfully described distinct expression waves across the molt and identified gene pathways and functional domains activated in specific stages, such as melanogenesis and the circadian clock. With these results we provide unprecedented understanding about the mechanisms of seasonal coat color molting and take a step towards determining its adaptive potential in changing environments.


Mafalda Sousa Ferreira is graduated in Biology and holds a MSc in Biodiversity, Genetics and Evolution from the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto. Currently, Mafalda is a first year PhD Student attending the BIODIV program at the University of Porto. Working under the supervision of Dr. José Melo-Ferreira (CIBIO-InBIO) and Prof. Jeffrey Good (University of Montana), Mafalda is part of CIBIO-InBIO’s CONGEN group. Her interests focus on adaptation genetics and evolution. Specifically, Mafalda’s research focus on the genetics basis of seasonal coat color change in several boreal hare species. With a better understanding of its genetic basis and evolutionary history among mammals, she aims to assess the adaptive capacity of this trait in changing environments.


Image credits: Paulo Célio Alves