Motion camouflage induced by zebra stripes

How, Martin J. and Zanker, Johannes M. (2014) Motion camouflage induced by zebra stripes. Zoology, 117 3: 163-170. doi:10.1016/j.zool.2013.10.004

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Author How, Martin J.
Zanker, Johannes M.
Title Motion camouflage induced by zebra stripes
Journal name Zoology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0944-2006
Publication date 2014-05-01
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.zool.2013.10.004
Volume 117
Issue 3
Start page 163
End page 170
Total pages 8
Place of publication Jena, Germany
Publisher Urban und Fischer Verlag
Language eng
Formatted abstract
The functional significance of the zebra coat stripe pattern is one of the oldest questions in evolutionary biology, having troubled scientists ever since Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace first disagreed on the subject. While different theories have been put forward to address this question, the idea that the stripes act to confuse or ‘dazzle’ observers remains one of the most plausible. However, the specific mechanisms by which this may operate has not been investigated in detail. In this paper, we investigate how motion of the zebra's high contrast stripes creates visual effects that may act as a form of motion camouflage. We simulated a biologically motivated motion detection algorithm to analyse motion signals generated by different areas on a zebra's body during displacements of their retinal images. Our simulations demonstrate that the motion signals that these coat patterns generate could be a highly misleading source of information. We suggest that the observer's visual system is flooded with erroneous motion signals that correspond to two well-known visual illusions: (i) the wagon-wheel effect (perceived motion inversion due to spatiotemporal aliasing); and (ii) the barber-pole illusion (misperceived direction of motion due to the aperture problem), and predict that these two illusory effects act together to confuse biting insects approaching from the air, or possibly mammalian predators during the hunt, particularly when two or more zebras are observed moving together as a herd.
Keyword Camouflage
Illusory motion
Aperture effect
Equus burchelli
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Available online 4 December 2013

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Queensland Brain Institute Publications
Official 2014 Collection
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 16 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 20 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Fri, 20 Dec 2013, 19:50:32 EST by Jon Swabey on behalf of Queensland Brain Institute