Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 32, Issue 2–3, pp 141–157 | Cite as

Predation and cryptic coloration in a managed landscape

  • Richard W. Orton
  • Eric J. McElroy
  • Lance D. McBrayerEmail author
Original Paper


Protective forms of animal color, such as crypsis, are thought to reduce the probability of detection by visual predators. However, because crypsis is ostensibly intuitive, the working hypothesis of cryptic coloration is seldom tested. Additionally because crypsis is a background-specific adaptation, events which alter habitat structure and substrate composition are likely to affect rates of predation on cryptic animals; animal colors that are cryptic against one visual background may be conspicuous against different visual backgrounds. Populations of Sceloporus woodi, a cryptic diurnal lizard, occupy clear-cut stands of sand pine scrub and prescribe-burned longleaf pine habitat within the Ocala National Forest. Here, we used a combination of clay models resembling S. woodi, and spectral analysis, to examine the effects of spatial heterogeneity and model-substrate contrast on rates of predation. The rate of attack on clay models differed between substrate types and habitats, and was highest when clay models were conspicuous against the local visual background. The dorsal color of models greatly contrasted open sand and dead wood, but had similar reflectance values to leaf litter, suggesting that models were most cryptic on leaf litter. We conclude that crypsis is adaptive in this species, and that variation in rates of attack between sampling locations is related to changes in substrate composition due to management history. For instance, the data suggest that the rate of attack on clay models would decrease in response to succession in sand pine scrub, because aging in sand pine scrub results in increased amounts of leaf litter and decreased amounts of open sand. Overall, the results of this study support the theory of protective coloration.


Differential predation Protective coloration Habitat alteration Visual background Selection pressure 



We would like to thank Lauren K. Neel and Chase T. Kinsey for their help in the field collecting lizards. Additionally, we owe a debt of gratitude to the Bedore Sensory Ecology Lab at Georgia Southern University for their aid in measuring spectral reflectance. We thank Dr. John Steffen for comments in earlier versions of this manuscript. Research in the Ocala National Forest was conducted with permission from the USDA Forest Service (USFS permit # SEM540). All applicable international, international and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed under protocol with the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC permit # I15011). Funding for this research was provided by a Graduate Student Professional Development Grant from the College of Graduate Studies at Georgia Southern University.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation CommissionLake CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyCollege of CharlestonCharlestonUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyGeorgia Southern UniversityStatesboroUSA

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