What is it about?
Rich Webster, then a PhD student at Carleton University, applied a novel approach to the question of how disruptive colouration helps to hide animals. He used eye-tracking technology with humans as predators searching for digital moths on pictures of trees. With this approach he was able to see where people were looking and how long it really took them to find the “moth”. Importantly, he could also tell how many times they looked at the moth without actually seeing it. We were able to show that the length of time taken to find a target and the number of times that the target was missed were both significantly higher when the moth had a larger number of patches on the edge of its wings.
Photo by Rúben Marques on Unsplash
Why is it important?
Mottled colouration has been observed in many species, but until now we have not had a clear description of the mechanism by which this form of defensive colouration acts. Our results provide that first insight into how and why predators sometimes fail to find prey which are camouflaged in this way.
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This page is a summary of: Disruptive camouflage impairs object recognition, Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences, October 2013, Royal Society Publishing, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0501.
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