Scientists compared the effectiveness of camouflage in different animal species

(ORDO NEWS) — Many species, from butterflies to deer, use camouflage coloration to avoid attracting the attention of predators or potential prey.

Four Brazilian scientists decided to compare how effectively different species merge with the terrain and who in the animal world deserves the right to be called a real “invisible”.

A huge number of scientific works are devoted to the study of camouflage abilities in different animal species, from chameleons to caterpillars.

However, until now, few people have tried to compare the effectiveness of animal camouflage, so four Brazilian scientists decided to conduct their own study.

After selecting all scientific articles from 1900 to 2022 devoted to animal camouflage, they began to study the materials of the works until they narrowed the selection to 84 articles.

Each of them included a description of experiments conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of camouflage: for example, scientists measured the time it took a predator to search for camouflaged prey.

The researchers then divided the data into two categories: species that camouflage as terrain, “blend into the background,” and species that masquerade as inedible objects in the environment, such as leaves or sticks.

The first category includes, for example, nocturnal carpenter butterflies , whose color of wings imitates tree bark, the second – diurnal leaf butterflies , whose folded wings exactly resemble a dry tree leaf.

After comparing the two camouflage strategies, the scientists found that it was most reliable to disguise themselves as inedible objects: predators searched for such animals three times longer than uncamouflaged prey of the same size.

For those masquerading as the background, the coloring gave only one and a half times more time. On average, predators searched for a camouflaged caterpillar or beetle took 62 percent longer to find uncamouflaged animals of the same size, and attacked them 27 percent slower.

Scientists compared the effectiveness of camouflage in different animal species 2
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The researchers believe that the relative rarity of this type of camouflage in the animal world is mainly due to size. The camouflage must be about the same size as the camouflage object, otherwise the camouflage will lose its effectiveness.

They also noted that most of the work was devoted to the camouflage of animals from the Northern Hemisphere and prey animals, while much less attention was paid to predators and inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere.

More research will need to be done in the future to learn about the true effectiveness of the various types of camouflage used by animals around the world.

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