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Non-visual crypsis: a review of the empirical evidence for camouflage to senses other than vision

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  • Ql Zoology
  • Qh301 Biology
  • Chemistry


I review the evidence that organisms have adaptations that confer difficulty of detection by predators and parasites that seek their targets primarily using sensory systems other than vision. In other words, I will answer the question of whether crypsis is a concept that can usefully be applied to non-visual sensory perception. Probably because vision is such an important sensory system in humans, research in this field is sparse. Thus, at present we have very few examples of chemical camouflage, and even these contain some ambiguity in deciding whether they are best seen as examples of background matching or mimicry. There are many examples of organisms that are adaptively silent at times or in locations when or where predation risk is higher or in response to detection of a predator. By contrast, evidence that the form (rather than use) of vocalizations and other sound-based signals has been influenced by issues of reducing detectability to unintended receivers is suggestive rather than conclusive. There is again suggestive but not completely conclusive evidence for crypsis against electro-sensing predators. Lastly, mechanoreception is highly understudied in this regard, but there are scattered reports that strongly suggest that some species can be thought of as being adapted to be cryptic in this modality. Hence, I conclude that crypsis is a concept that can usefully be applied to senses other than vision, and that this is a field very much worthy of more investigation

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