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J Exp Biol. 2010 May;213(Pt 9):1425-35. doi: 10.1242/jeb.039743.

Background colour matching by a crab spider in the field: a community sensory ecology perspective.

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Institut de Recherche sur la Biologie de l'Insecte, Université François Rabelais de Tours, CNRS UMR 6035, 37200 Tours, France.


The question of whether a species matches the colour of its natural background in the perspective of the correct receiver is complex to address for several reasons; however, the answer to this question may provide invaluable support for functional interpretations of colour. In most cases, little is known about the identity and visual sensory abilities of the correct receiver and the precise location at which interactions take place in the field, in particular for mimetic systems. In this study, we focused on Misumena vatia, a crab spider meeting the criteria for assessing crypsis better than many other models, and claimed to use colour changes for both aggressive and protective crypsis. We carried out a systematic field survey to quantitatively assess the exactness of background colour matching in M. vatia with respect to the visual system of many of its receivers within the community. We applied physiological models of bird, bee and blowfly colour vision, using flower and spider spectral reflectances measured with a spectroradiometer. We observed that crypsis at long distance is systematically achieved, exclusively through achromatic contrast, in both bee and bird visions. At short distance, M. vatia is mostly chromatically detectable, whatever the substrate, for bees and birds. However, spiders can be either poorly discriminable or quite visible depending on the substrate for bees. Spiders are always chromatically undetectable for blowflies. We discuss the biological relevance of these results in both defensive and aggressive contexts of crypsis within a community sensory perspective.

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