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Biol Lett. 2010 October 23; 6(5): 597–599.
Published online 2010 April 21. doi:  10.1098/rsbl.2010.0226
PMCID: PMC2936160

Predators are less likely to misclassify masquerading prey when their models are present


Masquerading animals have evolved striking visual resemblances to inanimate objects. These animals gain protection from their predators not simply by avoiding detection, but by causing their predators to misclassify them as the ‘models’ that they appear to resemble. Using domestic chicks as predators and twig-mimicking caterpillars as prey, we demonstrated that masquerading prey were more likely to be misclassified as their models when viewed in isolation from their models than when viewed alongside examples of their model, although they benefitted from masquerade to some extent in both conditions. From this, we predict a selection pressure on masqueraders to use microhabitats that reduce the risk of them being viewed simultaneously with examples of their model, and/or to more closely resemble their model in situations where simultaneous viewing is commonplace.

Keywords: masquerade, camouflage, predation, predator–prey, detection, classification

Articles from Biology Letters are provided here courtesy of The Royal Society