Dappled light disrupts prey detection by masking movement

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

3 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


Prey and ambush predators that rely on concealment face a major constraint: motion breaks camouflage. However, dappled light is a common feature of sunny, vegetated habitats and can, when conditions are windy, become a source of dynamic visual noise. We tested the idea that the latter could mask movement, reducing the risk of detection. Newly-hatched domestic fowl chicks (Gallus gallus domesticus), a proxy for wild forest floor birds, were trained to peck moving, on-screen prey presented amongst two sources of dynamic dappled light: computer-simulated and that created with a mirror ball. Dynamic dapple, however produced, increased the chick’s latency to both fixate and peck the prey. Furthermore, we show that dynamic visual noise masks motion in a way that static visual noise does not. This reduction in foraging efficiency should, we predict, have significant consequences for an organism’s choice of habitat (as prey), foraging area (as predator) and its pattern of movement within a habitat.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-95
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Early online date9 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Visual Perception


  • signal masking
  • motion camouflage
  • foraging
  • dappled light
  • Dynamic illumination

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