Interactions between color and gloss in iridescent camouflage

Dylan H N Thomas*, Karin M Kjernsmo, Nicholas E Scott-Samuel, Heather M Whitney, Innes C Cuthill

*Corresponding author for this work

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


Iridescence is a taxonomically widespread form of structural coloration that produces often intense hues that change with the angle of viewing. Its role as a signal has been investigated in multiple species, but recently, and counter-intuitively, it has been shown that it can function as camouflage. However, the property of iridescence that reduces detectability is, as yet, unclear. As viewing angle changes, iridescent objects change not only in hue but also in intensity, and many iridescent animals are also shiny or glossy; these ‘specular reflections’, both from the target and background, have been implicated in crypsis. Here, we present a field experiment with natural avian predators that separates the relative contributions of color and gloss to the ‘survival’ of iridescent and non-iridescent beetle-like targets. Consistent with previous research, we found that iridescent coloration, and high gloss of the leaves on which targets were placed, enhance survival. However, glossy targets survived less well than matt. We interpret the results in terms of signal-to-noise ratio: specular reflections from the background reduce detectability by increasing visual noise. While specular reflection from the target attracts attention, a changeable color reduces the signal because, we suggest, normally the color 33 of an object is a stable feature for detection and identification.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberarad050
Pages (from-to)751–758
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number5
Early online date25 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council, UK (grant BB/M002780/1 to H.M.W., N.E.S.S., and I.C.C.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s).


Dive into the research topics of 'Interactions between color and gloss in iridescent camouflage'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this