Communication and camouflage with the same 'bright' colours in reef fishes

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2000 Sep 29;355(1401):1243-8. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2000.0676.


Reef fishes present the observer with the most diverse and stunning assemblage of animal colours anywhere on earth. The functions of some of these colours and their combinations are examined using new non-subjective spectrophotometric measurements of the colours of fishes and their habitat. Conclusions reached are as follows: (i) the spectra of colours in high spatial frequency patterns are often well designed to be very conspicuous to a colour vision system at close range but well camouflaged at a distance; (ii) blue and yellow, the most frequently used colours in reef fishes, may be good for camouflage or communication depending on the background they are viewed against; and (iii) reef fishes use a combination of colour and behaviour to regulate their conspicuousness and crypsis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Communication*
  • Animals
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Skin Pigmentation / physiology*
  • Social Behavior