The natural resting orientations of several species of nocturnal moth on tree trunks were recorded over a three-month period in eastern Ontario, Canada. Moths from certain genera exhibited resting orientation distributions that differed significantly from random, whereas others did not. In particular, Catocala spp. collectively tended to orient vertically, whereas subfamily Larentiinae representatives showed a variety of orientations that did not differ significantly from random. To understand why different moth species adopted different orientations, we presented human subjects with a computer-based detection task of finding and 'attacking' Catocala cerogama and Euphyia intermediata target images at different orientations when superimposed on images of sugar maple (Acer saccharum) trees. For both C. cerogama and E. intermediata, orientation had a significant effect on survivorship, although the effect was more pronounced in C. cerogama. When the tree background images were flipped horizontally the optimal orientation changed accordingly, indicating that the detection rates were dependent on the interaction between certain directional appearance features of the moth and its background. Collectively, our results suggest that the contrasting wing patterns of the moths are involved in background matching, and that the moths are able to improve their crypsis through appropriate behavioural orientation.

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Keywords Animal coloration, Background matching, Camouflage, Disruptive coloration, Predation
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Journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Webster, R.J. (Richard J.), Callahan, A. (Alison), Godin, J.-G.J, & Sherratt, T. (2009). Behaviourally mediated crypsis in two nocturnal moths with contrasting appearance. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1516), 503–510. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0215