Color change, phenotypic plasticity, and camouflage
Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
© 2016 Stevens. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
The ability to change appearance over a range of timescales is widespread in nature, existing in many invertebrate and vertebrate groups. This can include color change occurring in seconds, minutes, and hours, to longer term changes associated with phenotypic plasticity and development. A major function is for camouflage against predators because color change and plasticity enables animals to match their surroundings and potentially reduce the risk of predation. Recently, we published findings (Stevens et al., 2014a) showing how shore crabs can change their appearance and better match the background to predator vision in the short term. This, coupled with a number of past studies, emphasizes the potential that animals have to modify their appearance for camouflage. However, the majority of studies on camouflage and color plasticity have focused on a small number of species capable of unusually rapid changes. There are many broad questions that remain about the nature, mechanisms, evolution, and adaptive value of color change and plasticity for concealment. Here, I discuss past work and outline six questions relating to color change and plasticity, as well as major avenues for future work.
MS was funded by a Biotechnology and Biological SciencesResearch Council David Phillips Research Fellowship(BB/G022887/1)
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Vol. 4, article 51