Roger Hanlon, Universal Camouflage, and Studying Vision at the MBL in the 21st Century - Who has camouflage?

Hanlon has argued that all animals use three basic templates for camouflage (Hanlon 2007): uniform, mottled, and disruptive (shown here with cuttlefish).

“Uniform body patterns are those characterized by minimal variation in contrast. Mottle patterns are characterized by small-scale light and dark patches, and some repetition of parts of the pattern. […] Disruptive patterns are characterized by light and dark patches of varying shapes, scales and orientations, and some patches are usually of high contrast” (Hanlon 2007).

The model animal above, the cuttlefish, Sepia officinalis, has dynamic camouflage (i.e. it changes to suit its environment), but Hanlon alleges that even animals with static camouflage patterns use one of these basic templates. It might we worthwhile to test this claim yourself: the popular media site has a listicle containing photographs of animal camouflage. Use these to see if you can sort each animal into one of the three basic camo patterns. Here are three examples of static camo patterns, one from each template, taken from the encyclopedia of life.







The powerful idea behind universal camouflage here should be clearer in light of our discussion of the universals of visual physiology and photochemistry. If, as we saw, major aspects of visual psychology are shared across all animals that see, then any animal interested in fooling a visually oriented predator faces a largely homogenous and ubiquitous adaptive problem: i.e., learning how to fool one predator species means you’ve learned how to fool most animals.

So who has camouflage? According to Hanlon, every animal.