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Keywords:

  • Adaptation;
  • camouflage;
  • natural selection;
  • Peromyscus;
  • plasticine model;
  • stabilizing selection

The light color of mice that inhabit the sandy dunes of Florida's coast have served as a textbook example of adaptation for nearly a century, despite the fact that the selective advantage of crypsis has never been directly tested or quantified in nature. Using plasticine mouse models of light and dark color, we demonstrate a strong selective advantage for mice that match their local background substrate. Further our data suggest that stabilizing selection maintains color matching within a single habitat, as models that are both lighter and darker than their local environment are selected against. These results provide empirical evidence in support of the hypothesis that visual hunting predators shape color patterning in Peromyscus mice and suggest a mechanism by which selection drives the pronounced color variation among populations.