Background choice as an anti-predator strategy: the roles of background matching and visual complexity in the habitat choice of the least killifish

Karin Kjernsmo, Sami Merilaita

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    48 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Because background matching improves concealment, prey animals have traditionally been expected to prefer parts of the habitat that match their visual appearance. However, empirical support for this is scarce. Moreover, this idea has recently been challenged by an alternative hypothesis: visual complexity of the background impedes prey detection, and hence prey could instead prefer complex parts of the habitat. We used the least killifish to test, with and without predation threat, for the importance of the visual similarity between the fish and the background, and the level of visual complexity of the background. We observed their choice between backgrounds patterned with elements based on the longitudinal black stripe of the fish. Predation risk was important under some circumstances, and induced a preference for a background of matching horizontal stripes compared with mismatching vertical stripes. Interestingly, females under predation threat showed a preference for a complex background of randomly oriented and overlapping stripes compared with matching stripes, whereas males did not discriminate between these two. Additionally, males showed a preference for matching stripes compared with complex shapes, whereas females did not discriminate between these backgrounds. We conclude that matching is important in the choice for safe habitat, but some aspects of visual complexity may override or act together with background matching.
    Original languageUndefined/Unknown
    Pages (from-to)4192–4198
    Number of pages7
    JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
    Volume279
    Issue number1745
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2012
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Keywords

    • background matching
    • complexity
    • crypsis
    • habitat choice
    • predation
    • prey coloration

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