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Iridescence is a taxonomically widespread and striking form of animal coloration, yet despite advances in understanding its mechanism, its function and adaptive value are poorly understood. We test a counterintuitive hypothesis about the function of iridescence: that it can act as camouflage through interference with object recognition. Using an established insect visual model (Bombus terrestris), we demonstrate that both diffraction grating and multilayer iridescence impair shape recognition (although not the more subtle form of diffraction grating seen in some flowers), supporting the idea that both strategies can be effective means of camouflage. We conclude that iridescence produces visual signals that can confuse potential predators, and this might explain the high frequency of iridescence in many animal taxa.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8095
Number of pages5
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2018

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Visual Perception


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