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Comparative Study
, 4 (4), 326-9

Predator-specific Camouflage in Chameleons

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Comparative Study

Predator-specific Camouflage in Chameleons

Devi Stuart-Fox et al. Biol Lett.

Abstract

A crucial problem for most animals is how to deal with multiple types of predator, which differ in their sensory capabilities and methods of prey detection. For animals capable of rapid colour change, one potential strategy is to change their appearance in relation to the threat posed by different predators. Here, we show that the dwarf chameleon, Bradypodion taeniabronchum, exhibits different colour responses to two predators that differ in their visual capabilities. Using a model of animal colour perception to gain a 'predator's eye view', we show that chameleons showed better background colour matching in response to birds than snakes, yet they appear significantly more camouflaged to the snake visual system because snakes have poorer colour discrimination.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Photoreceptor spectral sensitivities (relative absorbances) for (a) the colubrid snake, T. sirtalis, and (b) ultraviolet sensitive avian visual system. UVS, ultraviolet sensitive; SWS, short-wavelength sensitive; MWS, medium-wavelength sensitive; LWS, long-wavelength sensitive; D, double cone. Absorbance spectra of the single cones are normalized to equal area under the curve and the bird double cone is normalized to a maximum of 1.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Colour responses of chameleons to the two predators measured as their contrast against the background in units of JNDs, relative to the visual system of each predator. Lower values indicate greater camouflage. Squares, bird vision; triangles, snake vision. Bars represent standard errors around the means. Chameleon colour responses to birds are significantly more camouflaged than colour responses to snakes (thin solid line comparisons) in terms of both (a) chromatic (colour) and (b) achromatic (brightness) perceptual channels for both predators. Despite this difference, chameleon responses to snakes are less detectable to the snake visual system than responses to birds are to the bird visual system (a thick dashed line comparison; F1,87=4.61, p=0.03) because snakes have poorer colour discrimination.

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