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Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jolian Troscianko,
Dr John Skelhorn
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).
Understanding what maintains the broad spectrum of variation in animal phenotypes and how this influences survival is a key question in biology. Frequency dependent selection – where predators temporarily focus on one morph at the expense of others by forming a “search image” – can help explain this phenomenon. However, past work has never tested real prey colour patterns, and rarely considered the role of different types of camouflage. Using a novel citizen science computer experiment that presented crab “prey” to humans against natural backgrounds in specific sequences, we were able to test a range of key hypotheses concerning the interactions between predator learning, camouflage and morph. As predicted, switching between morphs did hinder detection, and this effect was most pronounced when crabs had “disruptive” markings that were more effective at destroying the body outline. To our knowledge, this is the first evidence for variability in natural colour patterns hindering search image formation in predators, and as such presents a mechanism that facilitates phenotypic diversity in nature.
Author(s): Troscianko J, Nokelainen O, Skelhorn J, Stevens M
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Communications Biology
Print publication date: 05/03/2021
Online publication date: 05/03/2021
Acceptance date: 04/02/2021
Date deposited: 07/03/2021
ISSN (electronic): 2399-3642
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
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