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The evolution of pattern camouflage strategies in waterfowl and game birds



The evolution of pattern camouflage strategies in waterfowl and game birds



Ecology and Evolution 5(10): 1981-1991



Visual patterns are common in animals. A broad survey of the literature has revealed that different patterns have distinct functions. Irregular patterns (e.g., stipples) typically function in static camouflage, whereas regular patterns (e.g., stripes) have a dual function in both motion camouflage and communication. Moreover, irregular and regular patterns located on different body regions ("bimodal" patterning) can provide an effective compromise between camouflage and communication and/or enhanced concealment via both static and motion camouflage. Here, we compared the frequency of these three pattern types and traced their evolutionary history using Bayesian comparative modeling in aquatic waterfowl (Anseriformes: 118 spp.), which typically escape predators by flight, and terrestrial game birds (Galliformes: 170 spp.), which mainly use a "sit and hide" strategy to avoid predation. Given these life histories, we predicted that selection would favor regular patterning in Anseriformes and irregular or bimodal patterning in Galliformes and that pattern function complexity should increase over the course of evolution. Regular patterns were predominant in Anseriformes whereas regular and bimodal patterns were most frequent in Galliformes, suggesting that patterns with multiple functions are broadly favored by selection over patterns with a single function in static camouflage. We found that the first patterns to evolve were either regular or bimodal in Anseriformes and either irregular or regular in Galliformes. In both orders, irregular patterns could evolve into regular patterns but not the reverse. Our hypothesis of increasing complexity in pattern camouflage function was supported in Galliformes but not in Anseriformes. These results reveal a trajectory of pattern evolution linked to increasing function complexity in Galliformes although not in Anseriformes, suggesting that both ecology and function complexity can have a profound influence on pattern evolution.

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Accession: 059067540

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 26045950

DOI: 10.1002/ece3.1482


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