Concealed by conspicuousness: distractive prey markings and backgrounds
Proceedings of Royal Society B (2009) vol. 276, no. 1663, 1905-1910
Marina Dimitrova(1), Nina Stobbe(2), H. Martin Schaefer(2) and Sami Merilaita(1)
(1)Department of Zoology, Stockholm University
(2)Department of Evolutionary Biology and Animal Ecology, Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg Hauptstrasse 1
High-contrast markings, called distractive or dazzle markings, have been suggested to draw and hold the attention of a viewer, thus hindering detection or recognition of revealing prey characteristics, such as the body outline. We tested this hypothesis in a predation experiment with blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) and artificial prey. We also tested whether this idea can be extrapolated to the background appearance and whether high-contrast markings in the background would improve prey concealment. We compared search times for a high-contrast range prey (HC-P) and a low-contrast range prey (LC-P) in a high-contrast range background (HC-B) and a low-contrast range background (LC-B). The HC-P was more difficult to detect in both backgrounds, although it did not match the LC-B. Also, both prey types were more difficult to find in the HC-B than in the LC-B, in spite of the mismatch of the LC-P. In addition, the HC-P was more difficult to detect, in both backgrounds, when compared with a generalist prey, not mismatching either background. Thus, we conclude that distractive prey pattern markings and selection of microhabitats with distractive features may provide an effective way to improve camouflage. Importantly, high-contrast markings, both as part of the prey coloration and in the background, can indeed increase prey concealment.
keywords: crypsis, predation, dazzle, disruptive coloration, camouflage, background matching