Animal colouration is often a trade-off between background matching for camouflage from predators, and conspicuousness for communication with con- or heterospecifics. Stomatopods are marine crustaceans known to use colour signals during courtship and contests, while their overall body colouration may provide camouflage. However, we have little understanding of how stomatopods perceive these signals in their environment or whether overall body coloration does provide camouflage from predators. Neogonodactylus oerstedii assess meral spot colour during contests, and meral spot colour varies depending on local habitat. By calculating quantum catch for N. oerstedii's 12 photoreceptors associated with chromatic vision, we found that variation in meral spot total reflectance does not function to increase signal contrast in the local habitat. Neogonodactylus oerstedii also show between-habitat variation in dorsal body colouration. We used visual models to predict a trichromatic fish predator's perception of these colour variations. Our results suggest that sandy and green stomatopods are camouflaged from a typical fish predator in rubble fields and seagrass beds, respectively. To our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate signal contrast and camouflage in a stomatopod. These results provide new insight into the function and evolution of colouration in a species with a complex visual system.
- Behavioural ecology
- Evolutionary ecology