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Camouflage Scientists Invite Gamers To "Spot The Bird"

posted 22 Feb 2014, 06:50 by Mpelembe   [ updated 22 Feb 2014, 06:50 ]

Scientists in the UK are developing research-based games for the public in order to test how camouflage works for animals in the wild.

 ZAMBIA ( WWW.BBSRC.AC.UK) -  Scientists in the UK are developing research-based games to better understand how camouflage systems work for animals in the wild.

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While they know camouflage is an important animal survival tactic against predators, researchers still have little understanding of the science behind it, or how predators

overcome camouflage to locate prey for their own survival. How is a predator's vision and perception affected when its target blends in with the surroundings?

Based on videos recorded by hidden cameras in the field, a project funded by theUK's Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC), aims to find out, by engaging the public.

Two online video games have been produced that challenge players to spot a bird or eggs camouflaged in the video, first using dichromatic vision which is common in predators such as mongooses, and then trichromatic vision used by humans and monkeys. From a human perspective each type of vision reveals different ranges of colour.

The speed-of-detection data produced by humans playing the game in a controlled environment can then be compared with models of predator vision. It can also be linked to data produced in the wild showing how long it takes a predator to locate its prey in nature.

It's hoped the differences will reveal the mechanics of predator vision when it comes to detecting camouflaged prey.

"One of main aims is to analyse egg detection times by humans under relatively controlled conditions, and then to link that to the predicted level of camouflage based on our image analyses and also how well the nests fared in the field against real predators." said principal researcher, Dr Martin Stevens of the University of Exeter.

One video game, posted on the BBSRC website, shows a forest floor in Zambia, and asks viewers, "Can you spot the bird?" At first the gray, brown, and white flecked nightjar is undetectable but is slowly revealed as the camera zooms closer.

The scientists say that engaging the public in their research not only helps them explore the fundamental bioscience of camaflouge systems, but also increases public awareness of science in general. videos have been viewed 15,000 times.