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Cryptically patterned moths perceive bark structure when choosing body orientations that match wing color pattern to the bark pattern
Kang, C. K., Moon, J. Y., & Jablonski, P. G.
Many moths have wing patterns that resemble bark of trees on which they rest. The wing patterns help moths to become camouflaged and to avoid predation because the moths are able to assume specific body orientations that produce a very good match between the pattern on the bark and the pattern on the wings. Furthermore, after landing on a bark moths are able to perceive stimuli that correlate with their crypticity and are able to re-position their bodies to new more cryptic locations and body orientations. However, the proximate mechanisms, i.e. how a moth finds an appropriate resting position and orientation, are poorly studied. Here, we used a geometrid moth Jankowskia fuscaria to examine i) whether a choice of resting orientation by moths depends on the properties of natural background, and ii) what sensory cues moths use. We studied moths’ behavior on natural (a tree log) and artificial backgrounds, each of which was designed to mimic one of the hypothetical cues that moths may perceive on a tree trunk (visual pattern, directional furrow structure, and curvature). We found that moths mainly used structural cues from the background when choosing their resting position and orientation. Our findings highlight the possibility that moths use information from one type of sensory modality (structure of furrows is probably detected through tactile channel) to achieve crypticity in another sensory modality (visual). This study extends our knowledge of how behavior, sensory systems and morphology of animals interact to produce crypsis.