What the eye doesn’t see ...

Mar 04, 2005
What the eye doesn’t see ...

The first experimental evidence that birds can be deceived by camouflage in the same way that humans are deceived, is published today in Nature [3 March 2005].
The idea that bold contrasting colours help to break-up the body's outline was rapidly adopted by many armies as long ago as the First World War. And in biology this idea of 'disruptive colouration' has long been used to explain how insects such as moths conceal themselves from predators, shaping the evolution of protective coloration in insects.

Innovative research from the University of Bristol provides the strongest evidence to date that disruptive patterns do indeed protect insects from detection by birds, the predator most likely to have shaped the evolution of protective coloration in insects.

Professor Innes Cuthill and his team pinned artificial ‘moths’ to trees in a field with a dead mealworm attached. The 'moths' were triangular pieces of waterproof card with specific patterns printed on them. By varying the colours, size and location of patterns on the moths the team were able to mimic real tree characteristics and identify which pattern combinations were the most successful.

Professor Innes Cuthill said: “The rate at which mealworms were eaten by birds gives a measure of how effective each combination was at preventing detection by a predator. Combinations that gave a better disguise took longer to be seen, and it therefore took longer for the mealworms to be eaten.”

This research provides the first evidence that patterns which deceive humans operate in a similar way to those in non-human predators such as birds.

Source: University of Bristol

Explore further: Super Bowl athletes are scientists at work

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

International team maps 'big bang' of bird evolution

Dec 11, 2014

The genomes of modern birds tell a story of how they emerged and evolved after the mass extinction that wiped out dinosaurs and almost everything else 66 million years ago. That story is now coming to light, ...

Recommended for you

Super Bowl athletes are scientists at work

Jan 30, 2015

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman gets called a lot of things. He calls himself the greatest cornerback in the NFL (and Seattle fans tend to agree). Sportswriters and some other players call him ...

Reintegrating extremist into society

Jan 30, 2015

The UK government's increasingly punitive response to those involved in terrorism risks undermining efforts to successfully reintegrate former extremists, according to research by the University of St Andrews.

Strategies to enhance intelligence analysis

Jan 30, 2015

If you've ever watched a thriller about undercover agents, you probably have the impression that intelligence officers are models of objectivity, pragmatism and sharp, unbiased thinking. However, in reality ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.