Camouflage predicts survival in ground-nesting birds
Nature Publishing Group
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Evading detection by predators is crucial for survival. Camouflage is therefore a widespread adaptation, but despite substantial research effort our understanding of different camouflage strategies has relied predominantly on artificial systems and on experiments disregarding how camouflage is perceived by predators. Here we show for the first time in a natural system, that survival probability of wild animals is directly related to their level of camouflage as perceived by the visual systems of their main predators. Ground-nesting plovers and coursers flee as threats approach, and their clutches were more likely to survive when their egg contrast matched their surrounds. In nightjars – which remain motionless as threats approach – clutch survival depended on plumage pattern matching between the incubating bird and its surrounds. Our findings highlight the importance of pattern and luminance based camouflage properties, and the effectiveness of modern techniques in capturing the adaptive properties of visual phenotypes.
Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship
DST-NRF Centre of Excellence at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute
Vol. 6, Art. No. 19966