Dazzle camouflage and the confusion effect: the influence of varying speed on target tracking

Benedict Hogan*, Innes Cuthill, Nick Scott-Samuel

*Corresponding author for this work

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

14 Citations (Scopus)
352 Downloads (Pure)


The formation of groups is a common strategy to avoid predation in animals, and recent research has indicated that there may be interactions between some forms of defensive coloration, notably high contrast “dazzle camouflage”, and one of the proposed benefits of grouping: the confusion effect. However, research into the benefits of dazzle camouflage has largely used targets moving with constant speed. This simplification may not generalise well to real animal systems, where a number of factors influence both within- and between-individual variation in speed. Departure from the speed of your
neighbours in a group may be predicted to undermine the confusion effect. This is because individual speed may become a parameter through which the observer can individuate otherwise similar targets: an ‘oddity effect’. However, dazzle camouflage patterns are thought to interfere with predator perception of speed and trajectory. The current experiment investigated the possibility that such patterns could ameliorate the oddity effect caused by within-group differences in prey speed. We found that variation in speed increased the ease with which participants could track targets in all conditions. However, we found no evidence that motion dazzle camouflage patterns reduce oddity effects based on
this variation in speed, a result which may be informative about the mechanisms behind this form of defensive coloration. In addition, results from those conditions most similar to published studies replicate previous results, indicating that targets with stripes parallel to the direction of motion are harder to track, and that this pattern interacts with the confusion effect to a greater degree than background matching or orthogonal-to-motion striped patterns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-353
Number of pages5
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Early online date16 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Visual Perception


  • confusion effect
  • dazzle camouflage
  • defensive coloration
  • target tracking
  • animal groups


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