New research from the University of Exeter has made an exciting revelation about wildlife camouflage techniques.
According to the findings, Wild Aegean wall lizards found on Greek islands choose rocks that best match the colour of their backs, raising the question of how lizards know what colour their backs are.
Dr Martin Stevens from the University of Exeter’s Centre for Ecology and Conservation and Kate Marshall from the University of Cambridge’s Zoology department proved that individual lizards are able to choose their resting spot wisely by selecting a rock that will make their backs less conspicuous to avian predators.
Dr Stevens commented: “Our study shows that there is much more to camouflage than just an animal’s appearance. This is something that needs more research in the future.”
According to Marshall, this “is the first result of its kind in wild animals, and in lizards specifically”.
Given that birds perceive colour in a different way, as they are able to perceive UV light, for example, the question remains as to how lizards ‘know’ that their backs are effectively camouflaged.
“One theory is that it is under genetic control, while another possibility is that it develops in early life through learning from other lizards and from experience,” Marshall added.
Lizards’ resting site choices that heighten individual camouflage were more evident on islands with higher numbers of predatory bird species, suggesting that this trait in lizards evolves faster in riskier environments.
The research could emphasise the importance of considering broader environmental contexts, such as the risk of predation and perception.
Published in Scientific Reports, an online journal devoted to the pursuit of natural sciences, the article, with its full title ‘Microhabitat choice in island lizards enhances camouflage against avian predators’ is available to view now online.