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Concealing Coloration in Animals

Judy Diamond and Alan B. Bond

"This book is a lovely survey, for the general public, of all that is known about concealing coloration, and very nicely weaves the history of the subjects with the facts."
     -- John Endler
"It is only natural for the reader to ask how it could come to be that caterpillars can look like twigs, spiders like a bird dropping, and fish like seaweed — and that curiosity takes us to natural selection and evolution. The lay person could close this book armed with a thorough and broad understanding of natural selection without even realising it."
     -- Graeme Ruxton

The biological functions of coloration in animals are sometimes surprising. Color can attract mates, intimidate enemies, and distract predators. But color patterns can also conceal animals from detection. Concealing coloration is unusual because it is an adaptation not only to the visual features of the environment but also to the perceptual and cognitive capabilities of other organisms. Judy Diamond and Alan Bond bring to light the many factors at work in the evolution of concealing coloration.

Animals that resemble twigs, tree bark, stones, and seaweed may appear to be perfect imitations, but no concealment strategy is without flaws. Amid the clutter of the natural world, predators search for minute telltale clues that will reveal the identity of their prey. Predators have remarkable abilities to learn to discriminate the fake from the real. But prey have their own range of defensive tactics, evolving multiple appearances or the ability to change color at will. Drawing on modern experimental evidence of the functional significance of animal color strategies, the authors offer striking illustrations of how the evolution of features in one organism can be driven by the psychology of others.

Concealing Coloration in Animals (Harvard U. Press, 2013) takes readers on a scientific adventure that explores creatures inside mats of floating seaweed, mice and lizards on desert rocks and sand, and rare parrots in the rainforest of New Zealaond. Color photographs extensively document the mind-boggling array of deceptive strategies animals use to blend in, mislead, or vanish from view.

"I am delighted that I have this volume on coloration in my collection—the bibliography alone justifies a place on the bookshelf."
     -- Tim Caro