The pattern on the back of the vipers proved to be both camouflage and warning signal

The pattern on the back adder also serves as camouflage, and warning for predators. To this unexpected conclusion was reached by Finnish scientists who have studied the coloration of this snake. According to their publication in Animal Behaviour, a zigzag pattern is able to reliably hide the snake from the eyes of a predator. However, if it still detects the same pattern becomes a warning that the prey is poisonous. And in the case of flight it creates an optical illusion that makes it difficult to catch the snake.

The coloration of common vipers (Vipera berus) varies greatly from specimen to specimen, but most of them on the back there is a characteristic dark pattern in the form of a zigzag. There are several hypotheses to explain the purpose of this part. According to the most popular of them, the pattern warns predators that the poisonous snake is best avoided.

Despite the fact that this idea has received experimental confirmation, there is an alternative point of view on the color of vipers. Their supporters say that the snake pattern on the back can serve not only as a warning signal, but also elements of disguise.

A team of scientists headed by Valkonen Janne (Janne K. Valkonen) from the University Jyuvyaskyulya found new arguments in favor of the idea that the pattern adder has a dual purpose. The researchers made from clay fifty snakes of various colors: black, brown with pattern and without pattern, and gray with pattern and without pattern. They had to simulate different color morphs of vipers.

False vipers spread out along the forest path, half dummy left straight and half coiled, similar to the resting Viper. Then 129 volunteers were asked leisurely walk on these trails and report all seen the dummies.

Regardless of the position of the fake snakes that participants rarely found the dummy pattern on the back. Interestingly, the gray dummy pattern was detected more often than brown. The grey morph is more common among males, ordinary vipers, and brown among the females, therefore the authors suggested that the role of the pattern may differ among the genders. Apparently, protection from predators, males rely more on the warning coloration, and females for camouflage. This may explain why the latter figure is usually less clear.

The authors also checked whether the pattern on the back of the Viper to knock the predator off, forming a “shimmering” picture in motion. The calculations showed that the speed of this kind of snakes is sufficient to cause optical illusions. However, it can be effective only against mammals, but not birds, who better perceive rapidly changing images.

Thus, protective pattern adder has several purposes. This unexpected discovery demonstrates how the same details of coloration used differently depending on the situation.

Many insects also rely on camouflage for protection from predators. Some of them choose a substrate depending on their color. This is confirmed by the experiment with pustynnoe, representatives of locust. When they were repainted in a different color, they go to the surface with which it merged.

Sergey Knee High

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