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.
- Cognitive Science
- Visual Perception