Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

3D camouflage: exploiting photons to conceal form

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

DOI

Open Access permissions

Open

Abstract

Many animals have a gradation of body color, termed countershading, where the areas that are typically exposed to more light are darker. One hypothesis is that this patterning enhances visual camouflage by making the retinal image of the animal match that of the background, a fundamentally two-dimensional (2D) theory. More controversially, countershading may also obliterate cues to three-dimensional (3D) shape delivered by shading. Despite relying on distinct
cognitive mechanisms, these two potential functions hitherto have been amalgamated in the literature. It has previously not been possible to validate either hypothesis empirically, because there has been no general theory of optimal countershading that allows quantitative predictions to be made about the many environmental parameters involved. Here we unpack the logical
distinction between using countershading for background matching or obliterating 3D shape. We use computational modeling to determine the optimal coloration for the camouflage of 3D shape. Our model of 3D concealment is derived from the physics of light and informed by perceptual psychology: we simulate a 3D world that incorporates naturalistic lighting environments. The
49 model allows us to predict countershading coloration for terrestrial environments, for any body shape and a wide range of ecologically relevant parameters. The approach can be generalized to any light distribution, including those underwater.
Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-563
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Volume186
Issue number4
Early online date20 Aug 2015
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2015

    Research areas

  • Countershading, Background matching, Obliterative shading, Camouflage, Shape-from-shading

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Optimizing countershading camouflage

    Cuthill, I., Sanghera, S., Penacchio, O., Lovell, P. G., Ruxton, G. D. & Harris, J. 15 Nov 2016 In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 113, 46, p. 13093-13097 5 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Does countershading contribute to visual camouflage by concealing 3D shape?

    Penacchio, O., Lovell, P. G., Sanghera, S., Cuthill, I. C., Ruxton, G. D. & Harris, J. M. Mar 2016 In : Perception. 45, 3, p. 357-357 1 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalAbstract

  3. Does countershading impede efficient visual search?

    Penacchio, O., Lovell, P. G., Sanghera, S., Cuthill, I. C., Ruxton, G. D. & Harris, J. M. 2016 In : i-Perception. 7, 1, 1 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalAbstract

  4. Visual search using realistic camouflage: countershading is highly effective at deterring search.

    Penacchio, O., Lovell, G., Sanghera, S., Cuthill, I., Ruxton, G. & Harris, J. 1 Sep 2015 In : Journal of Vision. 15, 12, p. 968 1 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalAbstract

  5. Orientation to the sun by animals and its interaction with crypsis

    Penacchio, O., Cuthill, I., Lovell, P. G., Ruxton, G. D. & Harris, J. Sep 2015 In : Functional Ecology. 29, 9, p. 1165-1177

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Body size as a driver of scavenging in theropod dinosaurs

    Kane, A., Healy, K., Ruxton, G. D. & Jackson, A. L. Jun 2016 In : American Naturalist. 187, 6, p. 706-716 11 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Intragenomic conflict over soldier allocation in polyembryonic parasitoid wasps

    Rautiala, P. & Gardner, A. 18 Feb 2016 In : American Naturalist. 187, 4, 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. DNA methylation and sex allocation in the parasitoid wasp Nasonia vitripennis

    Cook, N., Pannebakker, B., Tauber, E. & Shuker, D. M. Oct 2015 In : American Naturalist. 186, 4, p. 513-518

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Florivory as an opportunity benefit of aposematism

    Higginson, A. D., Speed, M. P. & Ruxton, G. D. Dec 2015 In : American Naturalist. 186, 6, p. 728-741 14 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. American Naturalist (Journal)

    Gardner, A. (Editor)
    20112015

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

ID: 178434209