What the eye doesn’t see ...

March 4, 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: Fossil find pushes back date of earliest fused bones in birds by 40 million years

Related Stories

Dino-killing asteroid sped up bird evolution

September 21, 2017

Human activities could change the pace of evolution, similar to what occurred 66 million years ago when a giant asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs, leaving modern birds as their only descendants. That's one conclusion drawn ...

How yellow and blue make green in parrots

October 5, 2017

When it comes to spectacular displays of color, birds are obvious standouts in the natural world. Many brightly colored birds get their pigments from the foods that they eat, but that's not true of parrots. Now, researchers ...

The most mysterious star in the cosmos

October 3, 2017

Round 5 a.m. on a Tuesday this past May, Tabetha "Tabby" Boyajian sat staring at a laptop, cross-legged on her couch in the living room of her Baton Rouge, La., home. The coffee table was cluttered with the artifacts of an ...

Recommended for you

Black butterfly wings offer a model for better solar cells

October 19, 2017

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers with California Institute of Technology and the Karlsruh Institute of Technology has improved the efficiency of thin film solar cells by mimicking the architecture of rose butterfly wings. ...

Using optical chaos to control the momentum of light

October 19, 2017

Integrated photonic circuits, which rely on light rather than electrons to move information, promise to revolutionize communications, sensing and data processing. But controlling and moving light poses serious challenges. ...

Gut bacteria from wild mice boost health in lab mice

October 19, 2017

Laboratory mice that are given the gut bacteria of wild mice can survive a deadly flu virus infection and fight colorectal cancer dramatically better than laboratory mice with their own gut bacteria, researchers report October ...

Gene editing in the brain gets a major upgrade

October 19, 2017

Genome editing technologies have revolutionized biomedical science, providing a fast and easy way to modify genes. However, the technique allowing scientists to carryout the most precise edits, doesn't work in cells that ...

0 comments

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.