In the corner of the eye: camouflaging motion in the peripheral visual field

Ioan E. Smart*, Innes C. Cuthill, Nicholas E. Scott-Samuel

*Corresponding author for this work

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

6 Citations (Scopus)
101 Downloads (Pure)


Most animals need to move, and motion will generally break camouflage. In many instances, most of the visual field of a predator does not fall within a high-resolution area of the retina and so, when an undetected prey moves, that motion will often be in peripheral vision. We investigate how this can be exploited by prey, through different patterns of movement, to reduce the accuracy with which the predator can locate a cryptic prey item when it subsequently orients towards a target. The same logic applies for a prey species trying to localise a predatory threat. Using human participants as surrogate predators, tasked with localising a target on peripherally viewed computer screens, we quantify the effects of movement (duration and speed) and target pattern. We show that, while motion is certainly detrimental to camouflage, should movement be necessary, some behaviours and surface patterns reduce that cost. Our data indicate that the phenotype that minimises localisation accuracy is unpatterned, having the mean luminance of the background, does not utilise a startle display prior to movement, and has short (below saccadic latency), fast movements.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20192537
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1918
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2020

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Visual Perception


  • defensive coloration
  • motion camouflage
  • peripheral vision
  • position perception
  • visual search


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