Camouflage using three-dimensional surface disruption

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Abstract

Disruptive markings are common in animal patterns and can provide camouflage benefits by concealing the body's true edges and/or by breaking the surface of the body into multiple depth planes. Disruptive patterns that are accentuated by high contrast borders are most likely to provide false depth cues to enhance camouflage, but studies to date have used visual detection models or humans as predators. We presented three-dimensional-printed moth-like targets to wild bird predators to determine whether: (1) three-dimensional prey with disrupted body surfaces have higher survival than three-dimensional prey with continuous surfaces, (2) two-dimensional prey with disruptive patterns or enhanced edge markings have higher survival than non-patterned two-dimensional prey. We found a survival benefit for three-dimensional prey with disrupted surfaces, and a significant effect of mean wing luminance. There was no evidence that false depth cues provided the same protective benefits as physical surface disruption in three-dimensional prey, perhaps because our treatments did not mimic the complexity of patterns found in natural animal markings. Our findings indicate that disruption of surface continuity is an important strategy for concealing a three-dimensional body shape.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20220596
Number of pages1
JournalBiology Letters
Volume19
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2023

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