What camouflage prawns do when a wardrobe change takes weeks

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What camouflage prawns do when a wardrobe change takes weeks

June 23, 2019 - 21:04
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A new study shows how chameleon prawns are able to avoid being detected by predators, despite the fact that their ability to change color is a tad slow.

Besides changing their color, camouflage prawns avoid being seen by predators by selecting surroundings that match their current coloration.

As their name suggests, chameleon prawns have the ability to hide in plain sight from potential predators by changing their color.

However, unlike the land-based chameleons, the color change in chameleon prawns takes weeks to manifest. So, possibly, the crustacean must have at least another trick up their sleeves.

This was the subject of a new study by the University of Exeter and the Federal University of ABC (Brazil), and published in the Communications Biology journal. The study showed that green and red chameleon prawns “closely resembled their associated seaweed substrates […] and that they can change color to effectively match new backgrounds.”

Commenting that the prawns had "excellent levels of camouflage, PhD student Sam Green from the University of Exeter said, "We measured the camouflage of prawns to the vision of their predators and recorded color change in the lab, and found the prawns can improve camouflage against their new backgrounds over a number of weeks."

What's more, when given a choice, the prawns would choose an environment that more closely resembled their current coloration. "This helps maintain camouflage in the short term, helping prawns to deal with the challenges of rock pool life. For example, a wave could dislodge a prawn from its chosen perch."

Professor Martin Stevens added: "The rock pool environment is an incredibly challenging place to live and is constantly changing every day and over the seasons. The combination of color change and behavior enables prawns to cope with this and reduce the chance of them becoming a meal for a hungry predator."

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