Whether hiding from predators, or avoiding battlefield casualties, camouflage is widely employed to prevent detection. Disruptive coloration is a seemingly well-known camouflage mechanism proposed to function by breaking up an object's salient features (for example their characteristic outline), rendering objects more difficult to recognize. However, while a wide range of animals are thought to evade detection using disruptive patterns, there is no direct experimental evidence that disruptive coloration impairs recognition. Using humans searching for computer-generated moth targets, we demonstrate that the number of edge-intersecting patches on a target reduces the likelihood of it being detected, even at the expense of reduced background matching. Crucially, eye-tracking data show that targets with more edge-intersecting patches were looked at for longer periods prior to attack, and passed-over more frequently during search tasks. We therefore show directly that edge patches enhance survivorship by impairing recognition, confirming that disruptive coloration is a distinct camouflage strategy, not simply an artefact of background matching.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Background matching, Crypsis, Disruptive coloration, Edge detection, Eye tracking, Vision
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2013.0501
Journal Biology Letters
Webster, R.J. (Richard J.), Hassall, C. (Christopher), Herdman, C.M, Godin, J.-G.J, & Sherratt, T. (2013). Disruptive camouflage impairs objectc recognition. Biology Letters, 9(6). doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0501