Skip to main content

Data from: Optimizing countershading camouflage

Cite this dataset

Cuthill, Innes C. et al. (2017). Data from: Optimizing countershading camouflage [Dataset]. Dryad.


Because the sun and sky are above us, natural illumination is directional and the cues from shading reveal shape and depth. However, many animals are darker on their backs and, over 100 years ago, it was proposed that this phenomenon was camouflage: countering the cues to shape that directional illumination creates. However, does this camouflage work in practice? We predicted the optimal countershading for different lighting conditions and tested this possibility with correspondingly patterned model “caterpillars” predated by birds in the wild. Predation rates varied with coloration and lighting in exactly the manner predicted. Such subtlety in the effects of countershading vindicates conclusions from prior evidence demonstrating stronger countershading in animals in more brightly lit habitats.

Usage notes


National Science Foundation, Award: UK BBSRC grant numbers BB/J002372/1 and BB/J000272/1


United Kingdom