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.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics