What advantage does camouflage bring in nature?
How is Camouflage Connected to Animal Cognition?
Camouflaging is one of the ways animals protect themselves from their predators. According to Merilaita et al. (2017), camouflage refers to body color adaptations that decreases the probability of an animal’s detection by their predators. Camouflaging involves disruptive coloration, matching, distractive marks and motion and also self-shadow concealment. Animal use camouflaging for signaling and communication, and the efficiency of these signals linked to the environment. Recent studies have been done to analyze how camouflaging provides matching in natural environment from predators. According to Hughes et al. (2019), camouflage is an essential anti-predator strategy where animals are traditionally linked to a specific background. Animals encounter different habitats, and animals adapt their environments appearance. Hughes et al. (2019) also stated that “despite detailed theoretical work determining the plausibility of compromise camouflage and elucidating the conditions under which it might evolve, there is currently mixed experimental evidence supporting its value and little evidence of it in natural systems” (p.1). Some species may encounter similar environmental habitats throughout their lives because their environments changes over their lifetime. Hughes et al. (2019) also stated that “some have the ability to change coloration to match different habitats; this is increasingly studied as a prevalent strategy found across many taxa, but in many species, the time scale of appearance change is too slow to cope with changes in the visual background caused by individual movement or environmental changes occurring over minutes to days” (p.1). According to Cuthill (2019) “animal camouflage has long been used to illustrate the power of natural selection, and provides an excellent testbed for investigating the trade-offs affecting the adaptive value of colour” (p.1). Different animals rely on their behavior to choose their visual habitats that match their appearance. There are many advantages camouflage brings in nature, and therefore, camouflage is connected to animal cognition.
Camouflage symbolizes the ability of different organisms to match their environments. Predation is a strong selective factor in nature, and camouflage increases survival for different organisms. According to Nokelainen et al. (2016), one example of camouflage is “grove snails have a pale appearance on grasslands, whereas snails from shaded woodlands have a generally darker appearance, presumably due to bird predation” (2). Another example of an animal that camouflaging is the pale-colored morph which resembles the tree trunks where the moths rest during the day. The dark-coloured morph matches with the tree trunks, which have been darkened so that their predators can locate the moth faster. Nokelainen et al. (2016) also stated that “recent studies have now quantified camouflage and its adaptive value more directly, specifically how the probability of an individual being attacked by a predator is dependent on the level of match an animal has to the background, as seen through the eyes of the key predators; This requires knowledge of the spectral sensitivities of the receiver, but after obtaining spectral information of the object and the background, the level of camouflage can be tested” (p.1). One example is the ground-nesting birds, whereby the parents flee from the nest when the predator approaches. These birds use nest survival to camouflage to protect their eggs from predators. Thus, camouflage is important in nature as it increases survival for different organisms.
Camouflage is connected to animal cognition because the level of camouflage depends on the initial detection and the predators’ cognition and experience. The brain interprets stimuli differently, which affects the predators behaviour due to camouflaging. Nokelainen et al. (2016) stated that “predators have been shown to be worse at finding camouflaged prey when prey populations are polymorphic in appearance; This is because under some condition’s predators concentrate on prey types that they have recent experience with, forming ‘search images’ for these and thus overlooking the rare morphs” (p.3). The negative frequency-dependent selection maintains fluctuations and polymorphic prey in morph frequency. Learning about cognitive processes also affect the value of different camouflaging strategies, and the predators learn their prey’s camouflage faster than others. Thus, camouflage is connected to animal cognition because the level of camouflage depends on the initial detection and the predators’ cognition and experience.
In conclusion, camouflage is an example of adaptation. Animals and plants resemble their general background or objects in order to avoid being detected by predators. Cuttlefish is one of the animals that camouflage. Although camouflage occurs across a variety of biological taxa. For an animal to successfully camouflage, they have to pass their predator unrecognized, undetected, and hence, the way the visual information is procced for it to be a predator to be deceived.
Cuthill, I. C. (2019). Camouflage. Journal of Zoology, 308(2), 75-92.
Hughes, A., Liggins, E., & Stevens, M. (2019). Imperfect camouflage: how to hide in a variable world? Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 286(1902), 20190646.
Merilaita, S., Scott-Samuel, N. E., & Cuthill, I. C. (2017). How camouflage works. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 372(1724), 20160341.
Nokelainen, O., & Stevens, M. (2016). Camouflage. Current Biology, 26(14), R654-R656.