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Moths revealed as mystifying masters of disguise

posted 27 Aug 2012, 08:13 by Mpelembe   [ updated 27 Aug 2012, 08:14 ]

Scientists in South Korea are reporting that the moth's mastery of camouflage is more sophisticated than previously thought. Most moths are coloured and patterned to blend in with their habitat but the researchers have found two species that take disguise to a whole new level. Rob Muir reports.

REUTERS / SEOULD NATIONAL UNIVERSITY - Hypomecis roraria is a common species of moth found all over the world.

With it's colouring and patterned wings, the insect is a master of disguise, although South Korean scientists have discovered there's more to it than mere appearances.

The researchers recorded a series of experiments in the moth's natural habitat.

After landing on the tree, the insect repositions itself, apparently knowing how best to capitalise on its appearance in relation to the tree bark, according to Seoul National University's Kang Chang-ku..


"Most of the moths that we have observed landed on tree bark. After observing the moths on the bark, we found they were repositioning themselves from their initial landing spot. We discovered that this behaviour can immensely contribute to improve the moths' camouflage,"

When asked, a majority of human volunteers found it extremely difficult to find the moths in photographs taken after they'd settled into position. Kang Chang-ku says it's reasonable to assume that birds, the moth's natural predators, would find it just as hard.


"The biggest difference between humans and birds is whether they can see in the ultraviolet range or not. However, moths and tree bark do not reflect light in the UV range. So we believe that our experiment has enough credibility."

But the team acknowledge that their research leaves one unanswered question: "How do the Moths know when they've found the ideal hiding place?"

The scientists hope to find the answer eventually but for now, the moths are keeping their secret well hidden.