Camouflage and perceptual organization in the animal kingdom

Daniel Osorio, Innes Cuthill

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Camouflage allows the bearer to ‘hide in plain sight’ by means of colour patterns that interfere with detection or recognition. Basic principles of camouflage that were proposed over a century ago by artists and natural historians have informed recent studies that seek to tease apart the different mechanisms by which camouflage exploits perception. The effectiveness of much animal camouflage against humans, even though the patterns evolved to fool different viewers, suggests that diverse visual systems share similar principles of perceptual organization. As such, animal camouflage might reveal universal principles that apply regardless of retinal organization and neural architecture. We review the recent literature on animal camouflage in this light, from experimental studies of texture perception by fish and cephalopod molluscs, to the visual effects used to defeat figure ground segregation of 2D and 3D objects in birds and mammals.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Perceptual Organization
EditorsJohan Wagemans
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)978-0-19-968685-8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015

Publication series

NameOxford Library of Psychology


  • Camouflage
  • visual texture
  • cryptic coloration
  • disruptive coloration
  • countershading
  • cephalopod
  • bird


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