Disruptive colouration is a visual camouflage composed of false edges and boundaries. Many disruptively camouflaged animals feature enhanced edges; light patches are surrounded by a lighter outline and/or a dark patches are surrounded by a darker outline. This camouflage is particularly common in amphibians, reptiles and lepidopterans. We explored the role that this pattern has in creating effective camouflage. In a visual search task utilising an ultra-large display area mimicking search tasks that might be found in nature, edge enhanced disruptive camouflage increases crypsis, even on substrates that do not provide an obvious visual match. Specifically, edge enhanced camouflage is effective on backgrounds both with and without shadows; i.e. this is not solely due to background matching of the dark edge enhancement element with the shadows. Furthermore, when the dark component of the edge enhancement is omitted the camouflage still provided better crypsis than control patterns without edge enhancement. This kind of edge enhancement improved camouflage on all background types. Lastly, we show that edge enhancement can create a perception of multiple surfaces. We conclude that edge enhancement increases the effectiveness of disruptive camouflage through mechanisms that may include the improved disruption of the object outline by implying pictorial relief.
Edge enhancement improves disruptive camouflage by emphasising false edges and creating pictorial relief (raw data)