Do readers remember Darwinian school lessons to the effect that zebra stripes are an excellent camouflage? Well, read this:
Dull, featureless camouflage provides better protection from predators than zebra stripes, according to a new study.
Biologists explaining the existence of such stripes have proposed the “motion dazzle hypothesis,” which suggests that high-contrast patterns can make it difficult for predators to track a moving target.
University of Exeter scientists tested this using a touch-screen game called Dazzle Bug in which visitors to Cornwall’s Eden Project had to catch a moving rectangular “bug.”
Bug patterns were programmed to “evolve” to find the best camouflage strategy.
“Surprisingly, targets evolved to lose patterns and instead match their backgrounds,” said senior author Dr Laura Kelley, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.
“Our results indicate that low-contrast, featureless targets were hardest to catch when in motion.”University of Exeter, “Grey camouflage ‘better than zebra stripes’” at ScienceDaily
The paper is open access.
The paper uses data from a game played by citizen scientists. We don’t really know for sure how lions would use the same data. But the story is apparently more complex than textbook Darwinism.