Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
Review
, 372 (1724)

How Camouflage Works

Affiliations
Review

How Camouflage Works

Sami Merilaita et al. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci.

Abstract

For camouflage to succeed, an individual has to pass undetected, unrecognized or untargeted, and hence it is the processing of visual information that needs to be deceived. Camouflage is therefore an adaptation to the perception and cognitive mechanisms of another animal. Although this has been acknowledged for a long time, there has been no unitary account of the link between visual perception and camouflage. Viewing camouflage as a suite of adaptations to reduce the signal-to-noise ratio provides the necessary common framework. We review the main processes in visual perception and how animal camouflage exploits these. We connect the function of established camouflage mechanisms to the analysis of primitive features, edges, surfaces, characteristic features and objects (a standard hierarchy of processing in vision science). Compared to the commonly used research approach based on established camouflage mechanisms, we argue that our approach based on perceptual processes targeted by camouflage has several important benefits: specifically, it enables the formulation of more precise hypotheses and addresses questions that cannot even be identified when investigating camouflage only through the classic approach based on the patterns themselves. It also promotes a shift from the appearance to the mechanistic function of animal coloration.This article is part of the themed issue 'Animal coloration: production, perception, function and application'.

Keywords: animal coloration; crypsis; defensive coloration; signal-to-noise ratio; visual search.

Conflict of interest statement

We have no competing interests.

Similar articles

  • Cognition and the Evolution of Camouflage
    J Skelhorn et al. Proc Biol Sci 283 (1825), 20152890. PMID 26911959. - Review
    Camouflage is one of the most widespread forms of anti-predator defence and prevents prey individuals from being detected or correctly recognized by would-be predators. O …
  • Animal Coloration Research: Why It Matters
    T Caro et al. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 372 (1724). PMID 28533451.
    While basic research on animal coloration is the theme of this special edition, here we highlight its applied significance for industry, innovation and society. Both the …
  • Quantifying Camouflage: How to Predict Detectability From Appearance
    J Troscianko et al. BMC Evol Biol 17 (1), 7. PMID 28056761.
    The efficacy of our new method for measuring disruptive camouflage together with its biological plausibility and computational efficiency represents a substantial advance …
  • The Current and Future State of Animal Coloration Research
    JA Endler et al. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 372 (1724). PMID 28533467. - Review
    Animal colour patterns are a model system for understanding evolution because they are unusually accessible for study and experimental manipulation. This is possible beca …
  • Camouflage Through Colour Change: Mechanisms, Adaptive Value and Ecological Significance
    RC Duarte et al. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 372 (1724). PMID 28533459. - Review
    Animals from a wide range of taxonomic groups are capable of colour change, of which camouflage is one of the main functions. A considerable amount of past work on this s …
See all similar articles

Cited by 12 PubMed Central articles

See all "Cited by" articles

LinkOut - more resources

Feedback