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Camouflaging Moving Objects: Crypsis and Masquerade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Early online date17 Jun 2017
DateAccepted/In press - 30 May 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 17 Jun 2017


Motion is generally assumed to ‘break’ camouflage. However, although camouflage cannot conceal a group of moving animals, it may impair a predator’s ability to single one out for attack, even if that discrimination is not based on a color difference. Here we use a computer-based task in which humans had to detect the odd one out among moving objects, with ‘oddity’ based on shape. All objects were either patterned or plain, and either matched the background or not. We show that there are advantages of matching both group-mates and the background. However, when patterned objects are on a plain background (i.e. no background matching), the advantage of being among similarly patterned distractors is only realized when the group size is larger (ten compared to five). In a second experiment we present a paradigm for testing how coloration interferes with target-distractor discrimination, based on an adaptive staircase procedure for establishing the threshold. We show that when the predator only has a short time for decision-making, displaying a similar pattern to the distractors and the background affords protection even when the difference in shape between target and distractors is large. We conclude that, even though motion breaks camouflage, being camouflaged could help group-living animals reduce the risk of being singled out for attack by predators.

    Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Visual Perception

    Research areas

  • camouflaging motion, crypsis, masquerade, confusion effect

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    Licence: CC BY


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