JUN 06, 2018 6:09 PM PDT

Plants Use Camouflage Too

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

When someone asks you to name a life form that camouflages into its surroundings to avoid predation, you may be quick to respond with “chameleon” or “octopus.” But animals aren’t the only life forms that blend in with their surrounding environment; even some plants exhibit this innate ability.

Curious researchers from the University of Exeter and the Kunming Institute of Botany wanted to know the extent of which plants use camouflage in the wilderness, and so they embarked on a research project to learn more. They published their findings in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution this week.

Corydalis hemidicentra, found in parts of China, uses a camouflage technique to blend in with rocks.

Image Credit: Yang Niu

Intriguingly, many plants use the same camouflage tactics as animals do to hide in plain sight. These techniques include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Background matching, in which the plant uses specific colors or patterns to try and blend in with everything around it.
  • Disruptive colorization, in which the plant tries to ‘spoof’ its edges with particular markings to make it more challenging to discern from its surroundings.
  • Masquerade, in which the plant tries to replicate the appearance of something else nearby to deter attention away from it.
  • Decoration, in which the plant becomes concealed by loose material from its surroundings and ‘hides’ underneath it.

"It is clear that plants do more than entice pollinators and photosynthesize with their colors—they hide in plain sight from enemies too," said Professor Martin Stevens from the University of Exeter.

"We now need to discover just how important a role camouflage has in the ecology and evolution of plants."

Related: 10 masters of disguise, animal edition

A great example of a plant that uses the masquerade camouflage technique is Corydalis hemidicentra, which is frequently found near rock deposits. The leaves on these plants mimic the shape and color of nearby rock deposits to make spotting it more difficult. Furthermore, they take on different appearances depending on the types of rocks around them.

"These plants are a wonderful example of how camouflage can be adapted for different habitats," said the study’s first author Dr. Yang Niu.

"Different populations of this species look different in different places. We can’t yet be certain about how they do this. The adaptations might happen in the long term by evolution," Niu continued.

Related: Did the dinosaurs use camouflage to survive?

Many questions remain about how plants developed camouflage characteristics in the first place. Perhaps with a little more research, an answer could be around the corner.

Source: University of Exeter

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUL 23, 2020
Plants & Animals
Sharks Missing from 1/5 of World's Reefs
JUL 23, 2020
Sharks Missing from 1/5 of World's Reefs
Sharks of all sizes are vital to coral reef ecosystems, both as predators and prey. Shark populations have rapidly decli ...
AUG 13, 2020
Plants & Animals
A Mutation May Have Helped Howler Monkeys Survive Yellow Fever
AUG 13, 2020
A Mutation May Have Helped Howler Monkeys Survive Yellow Fever
In 2007, an outbreak of yellow fever devastated the howler monkey population of El Parque El Piñalito. A genetic mutatio ...
AUG 24, 2020
Plants & Animals
Active Dogs Are Less Fearful But Breed is Also a Major Factor
AUG 24, 2020
Active Dogs Are Less Fearful But Breed is Also a Major Factor
Most dog owners are familiar with some common triggers of anxiety and fear in their pets, like new situations, loud nois ...
SEP 06, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Climate Change Caused a Mastodon Migration
SEP 06, 2020
Climate Change Caused a Mastodon Migration
Around 11,000 years ago, megafauna of the earth began to go extinct. Mastodons were some of the largest land animals liv ...
NOV 05, 2020
Plants & Animals
Violence in Overcrowded in Gorilla Groups Slows Population Growth
NOV 05, 2020
Violence in Overcrowded in Gorilla Groups Slows Population Growth
Since the late 1960s, conservationists and researchers have worked to save gorillas from extinction. A new study by the ...
NOV 07, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
How the Suction Cups on Octopus Arms Detect Their Surroundings
NOV 07, 2020
How the Suction Cups on Octopus Arms Detect Their Surroundings
Scientists have taken a close look at the physiology of the octopus, creatures that are ancient and unique. Their arms c ...
Loading Comments...