A1 Journal article (refereed)
Camouflage accuracy in Sahara-Sahel desert rodents (2020)

Nokelainen, O., Brito, J. C., Scott-Samuel, N. E., Valkonen, J., & Boratyński, Z. (2020). Camouflage accuracy in Sahara-Sahel desert rodents. Journal of Animal Ecology, 89(7), 1658-1669. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13225

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Nokelainen, Ossi; Brito, José Carlos; Scott-Samuel, Nicholas E.; Valkonen, Janne; Boratyński, Zbyszek

Journal or series: Journal of Animal Ecology

ISSN: 0021-8790

eISSN: 1365-2656

Publication year: 2020

Volume: 89

Issue number: 7

Pages range: 1658-1669

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Publication country: United Kingdom

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13225

Research data link: http://dx.doi.org/10.17011/jyx/dataset/68155

Publication open access: Not open

Publication channel open access:

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/68365


1. Camouflage helps animals to hide from predators and is therefore key to survival. Although widespread convergence of animal phenotypes to their natural environment is well established, there is a lack of knowledge about how species compromise camouflage accuracy across different background types in their habitat.
2. Here we tested how background matching has responded to top‐down selection by avian and mammalian predators using Sahara‐Sahel desert rodents in North Africa.
3. We show that the fur coloration of several species has become an accurate match to different types of desert habitats. This is supported by a correlation analysis of colour and pattern metrics, investigation of animal‐to‐background similarities at different spatial scales, and is confirmed by modelling of two predator vision systems.
4. The background match was closest across large (or global) spatial scales, suggesting a generalist camouflage tactic for many background types. Some species, may have a better match to the background over small (or focal) spatial scales, which could be the result of habitat choices or differential predation. Nevertheless, predicted discrimination distances of fur coloration were virtually indistinguishable for mammalian and low for avian vision model, which implies effective camouflage.
5. Our study provides one of the best documented cases of multilevel camouflage accuracy in geographically widespread taxa. We conclude that background matching has become an effective and common adaptation against predatory threat in Sahara‐Sahelian desert rodents.

Keywords: protective coloration; natural selection; rodents; gerbils; deserts

Free keywords: background matching; desert; Dipodinae; Gerbillinae; QCPA; top‐down selection; vision model

Contributing organizations

Related projects

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2020

JUFO rating: 2

Last updated on 2021-07-07 at 21:32