Partial masquerading and background matching in two Asian box turtle species (Cuora spp.)

Rongping Bu, Fanrong Xiao*, P. George Lovell, Jichao Wang, Haitao Shi

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Animals living in heterogeneous natural environments adopt different camouflage strategies against different backgrounds, and behavioral adaptation is crucial for their survival. However, studies of camouflage strategies have not always quantified the effect of multiple strategies used together. In the present study, we used a human visual model to quantify similarities in color and shape between the carapace patterns of two Cuora species and their preferred habitats. Our results showed that the color of the middle stripe on the carapace of Cuora galbinifrons (Indochinese box turtle) was significantly similar to the color of their preferred substrates. Meanwhile, the middle stripe on the carapace of C. mouhotii (keeled box turtle) contrasted more with their preferred substrates, and the side stripe matched most closely with the environment. Furthermore, the carapace side stripe of C. galbinifrons and the carapace middle stripe of C. mouhotii highly contrasted with their preferred substrates. We quantified the similarity in shape between the high-contrast stripes of both Cuora species and leaves from their habitats. The carapace middle stripe of C. mouhotii was most similar in shape to leaves from the broad-leaves substrate, and the carapace side stripe of C. galbinifrons was the most similar in shape to leaves from the bamboo-leaves substrate. We determined that these species adopt partial masquerading when their entire carapace is exposed and partially match their background when they semi-cover themselves in leaf litter. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate that partial masquerading and background matching improve the camouflage effect of Asian box turtles in their preferred habitats. This is a novel study focusing on the influence of the shape and color of individual carapace segments on reducing detectability and recognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-179
Number of pages12
JournalAsian Herpetological Research
Volume13
Issue number3
Early online date22 Sep 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2022

Keywords

  • Camouflage
  • Cuora galbini rons
  • Cuora mouhotii
  • Patterns
  • Protective coloration

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