Animals can evade predators in multiple ways, one of the most effective of which is to avoid detection in the first place. We know much about the evolution of color patterns that match the visual background to avoid detection (i.e., crypsis), yet we know surprisingly less about the specific behaviors that have co-evolved with these morphological traits to enhance or maintain crypsis. We here explore whether the match between body color and background in a seemingly well-camouflaged tropical shore crab is a result of active background choice. Taking advantage of a coastal area in the Solomon Islands with variable sand color and a population of the pallid ghost crab Ocypode pallidula with varying carapace color, we experimentally tested whether individuals actively choose specific substrate that best matches their color patterns. We found that individuals taken from extreme sand colors chose substrate that maintained crypsis, with relatively darker crabs typically choosing dark sand and lighter crabs choosing light sand. Crabs of intermediate color pattern, in contrast, showed no clear preference for dark or light sand. Our results suggest that potential prey can actively choose specific backgrounds to enhance and maintain crypsis, providing insights into how behavior interacts with morphological traits to avoid predator detection.
- Ocypode pallidula
- background matching
- ghost crab
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics