Snowshoe Hare

Snowshoe hares go brown in Science (AAAS) News and ScienceDaily 21 June 2018 and Science, 22 June 2018, doi: 10.1126/science.aar5273.

Snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) that live in regions with snowy winters change the colour of their fur from brown to white at the beginning of winter, and back to brown during the summer.  The change occurs during the Hares’ Autumn and Spring moults.  However, some hares, especially those that live in less snowy regions stay brown, even though they do go through seasonal moulting.

Scientists at University of Montana have carried out genetic tests on winter white and winter brown forms and found the difference is in the regulation of a gene named agouti. This gene is known to have a role in colour regulation in other animals.  In the winter white hares, the gene becomes more active in the Autumn and suppresses the formation of melanin, the pigment that colours brown fur.  In winter brown hares, the agouti gene is not so active and they continue to produce melanin.

Jeffrey Good of University of Montana explained: “Like other seasonal traits, the autumn moult in snowshoe hares is triggered by changes in day length, but the colour of their winter coat is determined by genetic variation that has been shaped by evolution to match the local presence or absence of snow.”

The scientists also tested other species of hares and rabbits and found the same winter brown gene variation in the black-tail jackrabbit (L. californicus).  They concluded that winter brown gene had been introduced into the snowshoe hare population by hybridisation with jackrabbits.

According to Science News “The finding is one of many suggesting hybridisation is much more common than most scientists thought; by speeding up evolution, such interbreeding makes it possible for offspring to thrive under different conditions.”


Editorial Comment: Think this through a bit more. Since the gene is in both species, it could equally indicate the two species have always had it.  As the scientists admitted the winter brown variant of the snowshoe hare had already been observed in hares living in less snowy areas.  Perhaps you even could argue even the jackrabbits got it from the snow hares?

Secondly even if the brown hares did acquire the gene from jackrabbits that only indicates that the two species are capable of breeding together, and the gene has not evolved but merely shared.  Since the brown and white varieties of snowshoe hare are all the one species, no evolution is involved there either.  Note well that hybridisation cannot speed up evolution, because no evolution is involved – just the spreading around of already existing genes.

Jefferey Good’s comment reveals a fundamental flaw in evolutionary theory. The presence or absence of something in the environment cannot make anything evolve because it cannot produce any new genetic information.  The presence of snow may help winter white animas be better camouflaged, but snow will not produce new genes – it will simply preserve genes that already exist.  The absence of snow may preserve the winter brown gene, but it did not create it.  Changes in the environment can only result in some creatures surviving better than others.  This is natural selection, but it is not evolution.

And one final thing, the fact that jackrabbits can interbreed with snowshoe hares actually means they are the one biblical kind, and therefore evidence for the creation account in Genesis.

Evidence News vol. 18 No. 7
3 July 2018
Creation Research Australia

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