Camouflage and visual perception

Tom Troscianko, Christopher P Benton, P. George Lovell, David J Tolhurst, Zygmunt Pizlo

Abstract

How does an animal conceal itself from visual detection by other animals? This review paper seeks to identify general principles that may apply in this broad area. It considers mechanisms of visual encoding, of grouping and object encoding, and of search. In most cases, the evidence base comes from studies of humans or species whose vision approximates to that of humans. The effort is hampered by a relatively sparse literature on visual function in natural environments and with complex foraging tasks. However, some general constraints emerge as being potentially powerful principles in understanding concealment—a ‘constraint’ here means a set of simplifying assumptions. Strategies that disrupt the unambiguous encoding of discontinuities of intensity (edges), and of other key visual attributes, such as motion, are key here. Similar strategies may also defeat grouping and object-encoding mechanisms. Finally, the paper considers how we may understand the processes of search for complex targets in complex scenes. The aim is to provide a number of pointers towards issues, which may be of assistance in understanding camouflage and concealment, particularly with reference to how visual systems can detect the shape of complex, concealed objects.

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Footnotes

  • One contribution of 15 to a Theme Issue ‘Animal camouflage: current issues and new perspectives’.

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