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Unravelling the illusion of flicker fusion

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Diana UmetonORCiD, Professor Jenny ReadORCiD, Professor Candy Rowe



© 2017 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved. For over 150 years, researchers have investigated the anti-predator function of animal patterns. However, this work has mainly focused on when prey remain still, and has only recently started to incorporate motion into the study of defensive coloration. As motion breaks camouflage, a new challenge is to understand how prey avoid predators while moving around their environment, and if a moving prey can ever be camouflaged. We propose that there is a solution to this, in that a 'flicker fusion effect' can change the appearance of the prey in the eyes of their predators to reduce the chances of initial detection. This effect occurs when a high contrast pattern blurs at speed, changing the appearance of the prey, which may help them better match their background. Despite being widely discussed in the literature, the flicker fusion effect is poorly described, there is no clear theoretical framework for testing how it might reduce predation, and the terminology describing it is, at best, rather confusing. Our review addresses these three key issues to enable researchers to formulate precise predictions about when the flicker fusion effect occurs, and to test how it can reduce predation.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Umeton D, Read JCA, Rowe C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Biology Letters

Year: 2017

Volume: 13

Issue: 2

Print publication date: 01/02/2017

Online publication date: 01/02/2017

Acceptance date: 09/01/2017

Date deposited: 26/04/2017

ISSN (print): 1744-9561

ISSN (electronic): 1744-957X

Publisher: The Royal Society


DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2016.0831

PubMed id: 28148834


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