Camouflage in arid environments: the case of Sahara-Sahel desert rodents

Ossi Nokelainen*, Lekshmi B Sreelatha, José Carlos Brito , João C Campos, Nicholas E Scott-Samuel, Janne K Valkonen, Zbyszek Boratyński

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
66 Downloads (Pure)


Deserts and semi-deserts, such as Sahara-Sahel region in North Africa, are exposed environments with limited vegetation coverage. Due to limited physical surface structures, these open areas provide a promising ecosystem to understand selection for crypsis. Here, we review knowledge on camouflage adaptation in the Sahara-Sahel rodent community, which represents one of the best documented cases of phenotype-environment convergence comprising a marked taxonomic diversity. Through their evolutionary history, several rodent species from Sahara-Sahel have repeatedly evolved an accurate background matching against visually-guided predators. A top-down selection by predators is therefore assumed to drive the evolution of a generalist, or compromise, camouflage strategy in these rodents. Spanning over a large biogeographic extent and surviving repeated climatic shifts, the community faces extreme and heterogeneous selective pressures, allowing formulation of testable ecological hypotheses. Consequently, Sahara-Sahel rodents poses an exceptional system to test which adaptations facilitate species persistence in a mosaic of habitats and over climatic change. This is important, because studies of widely distributed communities permits generalizing conclusions about processes driving adaptations and understanding how diversity evolves
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Vertebrate Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2020

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Visual Perception


  • Africa
  • background matching
  • camouflage
  • Crypsis
  • predation
  • protective colouration


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