Evolutionary Biology

Volume 11 of the series Evolutionary Biology pp 319-364

A Predator’s View of Animal Color Patterns

  • John A. EndlerAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Princeton University

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


It has long been known that the general colors and tones of animals tend to match their backgrounds (E. Darwin, 1794; Poulton, 1890). The adaptive significance of this has been borne out in numerous experimental studies (DiCesnola, 1904; Sumner, 1934, 1935; Isley, 1938; Popham, 1942; Dice, 1947; Turner, 1961; Kettlewell, 1956, 1973; Kaufman, 1974; Wiklund, 1975; Curio, 1976). There is also a good understanding of warning coloration (Cott, 1940; Wickler, 1968; Edmunds, 1974; Rothschild, 1975). However, the determinants of color pattern are poorly known, although it is known in a general way that the patterns and forms of animals are similar to their backgrounds (Poulton, 1890; Thayer, 1909; Cott, 1940; Wickler, 1968; Robinson, 1969; Edmunds, 1974; Fogden and Fogden, 1974). It is the purpose of this paper to explore the factors that determine color patterns under various specific conditions. The basic assumption is that a color pattern must resemble a random sample of the background seen by predators in order to be cryptic, and must deviate from the background in one or more ways in order to be conspicuous. As a result, the actual pattern evolved in a particular place represents a compromise between factors which favor crypsis and those which favor conspicuous color patterns.