Camouflage in predators

Matilda Pembury Smith, Graeme Douglas Ruxton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
90 Downloads (Pure)


Camouflage – adaptations that prevent detection and/or recognition – is a key example of evolution by natural selection, making it a primary focus in evolutionary ecology and animal behaviour. Most work has focused on camouflage as an anti‐predator adaptation. However, predators also display specific colours, patterns and behaviours that reduce visual detection or recognition to facilitate predation. To date, very little attention has been given to predatory camouflage strategies. Although many of the same principles of camouflage studied in prey translate to predators, differences between the two groups (in motility, relative size, and control over the time and place of predation attempts) may alter selection pressures for certain visual and behavioural traits. This makes many predatory camouflage techniques unique and rarely documented. Recently, new technologies have emerged that provide a greater opportunity to carry out research on natural predator–prey interactions. Here we review work on the camouflage strategies used by pursuit and ambush predators to evade detection and recognition by prey, as well as looking at how work on prey camouflage can be applied to predators in order to understand how and why specific predatory camouflage strategies may have evolved. We highlight that a shift is needed in camouflage research focus, as this field has comparatively neglected camouflage in predators, and offer suggestions for future work that would help to improve our understanding of camouflage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1325-1340
Number of pages16
JournalBiological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society
Issue number5
Early online date14 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Camouflage
  • Crypsis
  • Predation
  • Behaviour
  • Movement
  • Mimicry
  • Evolution


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