Macedo T, Campos JC, Nokelainen O, Scott-Samuel NE, Boratyński Z


Background matching, a common form of camouflage, is a widespread anti-predator adaptation that hinders detection or recognition by increasing the resemblance of prey to its environment. However, the natural environment is complex and both spatially and temporally variable, which constrains effective background matching as an anti-predator strategy. Here, using remote sensing data (publicly available satellite imagery), we investigated how variation of habitat parameters predicts background matching in 16 Sahara–Sahel rodent species across spatial and temporal scales. All fur colour parameters (hue, saturation and brightness) strongly matched the respective habitats of the different species. Background matching in terms of hue was best at the microscale, whereas results for saturation and brightness showed more variation across spatial scales among species. Camouflage across the temporal scale (from 1 to 3 years before capture) was variable among species for all colour parameters. These complex interactions suggest that, in desert rodents, colour parameters are differentially sensitive to the respective scale of the habitat, plausibly reflecting the behaviour and life history of the species and the ecological properties determining their activity patterns. Consequently, the division between habitat (camouflage) generalists and specialists might become blurred in temporally changing and spatially variable environments.


Journal: Biological Journal of the Linnean Society

Link: 10.1093/biolinnean/blac107