Concealment in a dynamic world: dappled light and caustics mask movement

Samuel R. Matchette*, Innes C. Cuthill, Nicholas E. Scott-Samuel

*Corresponding author for this work

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

18 Citations (Scopus)
347 Downloads (Pure)


The environment plays a significant role in shaping the visibility of signals both to and from an organism. For example, against a static background movement is highly conspicuous, which favours staying still to optimize camouflage. However, backgrounds can also be highly dynamic, such as areas with wind-blown foliage or frequent changes in illumination. We propose that these dynamic features act as visual noise which could serve to mask otherwise conspicuous movement. Two forms of illumination change were simulated, water caustics and dappled light, to represent dynamic aquatic and terrestrial environments, respectively. When asked to capture moving prey items within the simulated scenes, human participants were significantly slower and more error prone when viewing scenes with dynamic illumination. This effect was near identical for both the aquatic and terrestrial environments. In the latter, prey item movement was also found to be masked most often when the pathway taken involved movement across the dynamic dappled areas of the scene. This could allow particularly moving prey to reduce their signal-to-noise ratio by behaviourally favouring the relative safety of environments containing dynamic features.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-57
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Early online date11 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Visual Perception


  • camouflage
  • caustics
  • concealment
  • dappled light
  • masking
  • movement


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