Disruptive camouflage features contrasting areas of pigmentation across the animals’ surface that form false edges which disguise the shape of the body and impede detection. In many taxa these false edges feature local contrast enhancement or edge enhancement, light areas have lighter edges and dark areas have darker edges. This additional quality is often overlooked in existing research. Here we ask whether disruptive camouflage can have benefits above and beyond concealing location. Using a novel paradigm, we dissociate the time courses of localisation and identification of a target in a single experiment. We measured the display times required for a stimulus to be located or identified (the critical duration). Targets featured either uniform, disruptive or edge enhanced disruptive colouration. Critical durations were longer for identifying targets with edge enhanced disruptive colouration camouflage even when presented against a contrasting background, such that all target types were located equally quickly. For the first time, we establish empirically that disruptive camouflage not only conceals location, but also disguises identity. This shows that this form of camouflage can be useful even when animals are not hidden. Our findings offer insights into how edge enhanced disruptive colouration undermines visual perception by disrupting object recognition.
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Dissociating the effect of disruptive colouration on localisation and identification of camouflaged targets (raw data)