Tiny dazzles atop the woodpile this afternoon with her classical profile and the voluptuous silkiness of her exquisite Chelsea Gray coat.
What it took a tiny deer mouse celebrated among scientists as an "evolution icon" several thousand years to accomplish — to change the color of its coat to blend with a new habitat — Tiny accomplishes effortlessly from moment to moment as she moves invisibly from tawny woodpile to gray granite retaining wall to pale pink brick terrace. More about Tiny's leger de fourrure in a moment, but first, the mouse's fascinating story:
"Usually the mice have a dark coat, which enables them to blend in with dark soils and avoid being seen by predators such as owls and hawks. But at Sand Hills in Nebraska, pale-coated mice abound."
"A tiny pale deer mouse living on a sand dune in Nebraska looks set to become an icon of biology," begins a BBC article proudly linked by Harvard's Twitter site promulgating the work of HU's Dr. Catherine Linnen & colleagues:
Within just a few thousand years, generations of the mice have evolved a sandy-coloured coat camouflaging themselves from predators. Most striking is that these mice acquired the mutation for pale fur naturally, then rapidly passed it on. That makes the fast-evolving deer mouse one of the best examples yet studied of "true" natural selection in action … "The light gene wasn't in existence, so the mice had to 'wait' until a particular mutation occurred and then selection had to act on that new mutation" …
The researchers say it is the first time that it has been possible to document the appearance of a gene, its selection and subsequent spread through a population of wild animals.
Mice? Why hasn't someone gone for the jugular? You want adaptive coloration? Tiny's multicolored coat of Chelsea Gray peaches and cream gives the US Military's fractal camouflage a run for its money.
Update: Then comes Earl Grey on the scene, and all bets are off. Love is blind.
Update II: "Given the saying 'At night all cats are grey,' the dashing Earl has the perfect adaptive coloration for stealth nocturnal visits to Tiny," says Connecticut Yankee in the comments.
Update III: More coats of many colors at Modulator's Friday Ark #259, now boarding.
*Note: Blog title refers to the Biblical Joseph's "coat of many colours."