Coloration in Mammals

Tim Caro*, Ricardo Mallarino

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Mammalian colors and color patterns are some of the most diverse and conspicuous traits found in nature and have been widely studied from genetic/developmental and evolutionary perspectives. In this review we first discuss the proximate causes underlying variation in pigment type (i.e., color) and pigment distribution (i.e., color pattern) and highlight both processes as having a distinct developmental basis. Then, using multiple examples, we discuss ultimate factors that have driven the evolution of coloration differences in mammals, which include background matching, intra- and interspecific signaling, and physiological influences. Throughout, we outline bridges between developmental and functional investigatory approaches that help broaden knowledge of mammals’ memorable external appearances, and we point out areas for future interdisciplinary research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-366
Number of pages10
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number4
Early online date22 Jan 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Jan 2020

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