Crypsis

Paul M. Brakefield

Leiden University

Organisms with bright and conspicuous color patterns tend to attract the most attention both scientifically and aesthetically. However, the majority of insects and other animals rely on camouflage or crypsis for survival from predators that hunt them by sight. Furthermore, crypsis may extend to include the other senses, namely, smell, touch, and sound. Indeed, any stimulus or signal that can alert a potential predator could be expected to become part of a

FIGURE 1 Crypsis illustrated for different insects. (A) An individual of the dry season form of the evening brown, Melanitis leda, resting among dead leaves on the forest floor in the Shimba Hills, Kenya. The insect is at the center with head pointing to the right; forewing length is ca. 4.5 cm. (B) A small moth that resembles a dead patch on a large leaf in a forest in Costa Rica (wing span is ca. 3 cm). (C) The caterpillar of a moth of the family Lasiocampidae resting on a tree trunk in the Shimba Hills, Kenya; it is ca. 6 cm in length and is positioned horizontally, head to the right, in the center of the photo (image has been rotated 90 degrees). (D) The same larva when actively moving in the same direction along a twig. See text for further details. (Photographs by the author.)

FIGURE 1 Crypsis illustrated for different insects. (A) An individual of the dry season form of the evening brown, Melanitis leda, resting among dead leaves on the forest floor in the Shimba Hills, Kenya. The insect is at the center with head pointing to the right; forewing length is ca. 4.5 cm. (B) A small moth that resembles a dead patch on a large leaf in a forest in Costa Rica (wing span is ca. 3 cm). (C) The caterpillar of a moth of the family Lasiocampidae resting on a tree trunk in the Shimba Hills, Kenya; it is ca. 6 cm in length and is positioned horizontally, head to the right, in the center of the photo (image has been rotated 90 degrees). (D) The same larva when actively moving in the same direction along a twig. See text for further details. (Photographs by the author.)

coordinated suite of cryptic traits. A form of crypsis is also shown by some predators that disguise themselves by assuming the same color and patterns as the background on which they hunt. H. B. Cott in 1940 wrote perhaps the best known book on animal color patterns, but many of the great entomologists of the 19 th century had already considered insect camouflage. It is not usual to consider insect crypsis as a subject of applied biology but there are certainly many parallels with military expertise in either the hiding of or the searching for personnel and armaments in a landscape.

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