Camouflage in predators

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Friday, 1st May 2020

Pembury Smith, M.Q.R.,  Ruxton, G.D.

Biological Reviews (2020)


Camouflage – adaptations that prevent detection and/or recognition – is a key example of evolution by natural selection,
making it a primary focus in evolutionary ecology and animal behaviour. Most work has focused on camouflage as an
anti-predator adaptation. However, predators also display specific colours, patterns and behaviours that reduce visual
detection or recognition to facilitate predation. To date, very little attention has been given to predatory camouflage
strategies. Although many of the same principles of camouflage studied in prey translate to predators, differences
between the two groups (in motility, relative size, and control over the time and place of predation attempts) may alter
selection pressures for certain visual and behavioural traits. This makes many predatory camouflage techniques unique
and rarely documented. Recently, new technologies have emerged that provide a greater opportunity to carry out
research on natural predator–prey interactions. Here we review work on the camouflage strategies used by pursuit
and ambush predators to evade detection and recognition by prey, as well as looking at how work on prey camouflage
can be applied to predators in order to understand how and why specific predatory camouflage strategies may have
evolved. We highlight that a shift is needed in camouflage research focus, as this field has comparatively neglected camouflage
in predators, and offer suggestions for future work that would help to improve our understanding of camouflage.

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