Color Hues and Geographic Location

By Dave Hanks

Returning from an excursion in the pine forests of central Oregon, I’ve become more impressed with the color intensity of its various lifeforms. I’ve always thought Ponderosa Pine to be a most attractive tree – from its long (three in a bundle) needles to its reddish (or yellowish – depending on location) bark. I would suppose that variations in color intensity would depend a lot on soil nutrients. Animals eat the vegetation and are no doubt influenced by those same nutrients. After observing the dark reddish color of the Ponderosa tree trunks, I also observed that the squirrels were of a darker shade than the same squirrel species we have around Southern Idaho. Their color mimicked the Ponderosa bark. Likewise, I have noticed the House Finches in the Desert Southwest to be of a brighter shade of red than our Idaho finches.

Black Bears are essentially black, especially in the eastern USA, but out here in the west you might see an occasional cinnamon colored one. These brown ones are a genetic recessive, but have evolved over time to be in tune with their surrounding environmental hues.

Anyone who has raised cattle realizes that the color of the meat produced depends a lot on the feed the animal has been fattened on. This, also, applies to the brightness of a Western Tanager’s red head, which is greatly affected by the amount of carotene the bird can obtain from its surrounding food sources. Geographic climate variations affect each area’s vegetation, which in turn affects the pigmentation of the animals in that area.

The Yellow Pine Chipmunk is a bright, tawny to a pinkish cinnamon. They prefer open forests where the sun casts sharp shadows. The squirrel’s Ponderosa Pine woodland habitat gives this rodent its name.

As we prepared to leave this place, after a restful night, nostalgia set in as we observed a big, bright, full moon that was visible behind a backdrop of Yellow Pine and further mystified by the various vocal utterances of a group of coyotes.

(A Yellow Pine Chipmunk at a seep)