Structural and colored disruption as camouflage strategies in two sympatric Asian box turtle species (Cuora spp.)

Rrongping Bu*, Fanrong Xiao, P. George Lovell, Zihao Ye, Haitao Shi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Disruptive coloration is a common camouflage strategy that breaks body outlines and ostensibly blends into complex backgrounds. However, the contrasting false edge caused by the animal's structure can also break the outline, and there is no empirical evidence to support this strategy. Here, we examined the Gabor edge disruption ratio (GabRat) of two species with divergent carapaces, the keeled box turtle (Cuora mouhotii) and the Indochinese box turtle (C. galbinifrons), on preferred (e.g., deciduous leaves) and non-preferred (i.e., grass) substrates. We quantified edge disruption in different substrates to compare between-species differences in the GabRat of disruptive coloration among the turtles’ preferred and non-preferred (control) substrates. We found that both species exhibited higher GabRat on preferred substrates, but interestingly, the keeled box turtle, with a uniformly colored carapace containing flat scutes and two keels, had a higher GabRat than the Indochinese box turtle, characterized by two yellow stripes on its carapace. Our results indicated that the strong brightness gradients caused by the directional illumination of the flatted and keeled carapace creates disruptive coloration in the keeled box turtle, whereas a high chroma contrast creates disruptive coloration in the Indochinese box turtle. For these turtles, the structural modifications result in variations in brightness that lead to higher levels of disruption than the chromatic disruption of the Indochinese box turtle. Our study provides, to our knowledge, the first evidence of disruptive camouflage in turtles and the first comprehensive test of structural and colored disruption in vertebrates.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01361
Number of pages8
JournalGlobal Ecology and Conservation
Early online date9 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Carapace shape
  • Animal coloration
  • Vertebrates
  • Keeled box turtle
  • Indochinese box turtle


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