News Archive: What's happening and what has happened in the lab.


April 2018: New paper on disruptive colouration and how it can slow identification.

It has long been accepted that disruptive colouration has a huge role in camouflage. It has also been speculated to interfere with identification. However this has never been established experimentally. Here we use an experimental paradigm where participants are shown stimuli briefly and they have to indicate both where the target is and what it is. Some targets where presented upon backgrounds against which they were camouflaged and others were presented on a background that didn't camouflage the targets as well. When we varied the speed of the presentation we found that localising the target became easier upon the contrasting background, there was no difference for the camouflage types we included. However, identification of the target needed more time for the disruptive edge-enhanced targets, even when localisation was no different from the uniformly coloured control. This study was a final year undergraduate dissertation project conducted by psychology undergraduate Stephen Moncrieff, supervised by George Lovell. The experiment was designed by George Lovell, Stephen Moncrieff and Rebecca Sharman.

The full paper is available at Nature Scientific Reports Direct Link to Paper

Teaching Pack for Camouflage and Warning Colouration

I've developed a new teaching pack with my colleague Dr Janet Mclean on camouflage and warning colouration. The pack includes a set of camouflage patterns for various environments (summer, autumn, urban) and warning colouration texture is also included. The aim is to educate students about the role that colouration and texture plays in hiding animals or in making them conspicuous. By cutting out targets from the various textures and hiding them in different environments children and teachers can design simple bug-hunting experiments. The activities are designed to feed into topics of science, biology, health and wellbeing. Another intention is to educate children about the value of bright contrasting colouration when cycling and walking. The pack can be downloaded by using this link:

Image of paper punched butterflies with varying colouration and textures. Scoring Sheet For Experiments


New paper on edge enhancement and disruptive colouration.

December 2016 - New Paper in Scientific Reports. This paper reports the results of our study exploring edge enhanced disruptive camouflage. In short, edge enhanced camouflage appears to be much more effective than simple 2 toned disruptive colouration. Targets take longer to detect regardless of whether the edge enhancement results in a better visual match to the background. The underlying mechanism seems to be the manner in which edge enhancement results in the viewer seeing the different camouflage patches as items seperated in depth.


New paper on countershading and weather conditions

November 2016 - New Paper in PNAS! Field studies with carefully calibrated countershaded camouflage demonstrate that having countershading that matches your light environment (or weather) results in better survival rates. Here's a press release @Bristol and the same one @Abertay.


New grant to begin in April 2016!

We've been given funding for a new grant which will use hyperspectral imaging to look at aposematic colouration in insects.

PI - Julie Harris (St Andrews) total value £591k. Details @BBSRC