Camouflage: Vision, Adaptation, and Thanksgiving Dinner

Clad head-to-toe in mossy oak camo with shocks of blaze orange, Vermont’s winter woods are now teeming with hunters patiently waiting, watching, and listening for a passing bear or buck. As far as they’re concerned, out on their pre-dawn forage, hunters are only one of the countless threats faced living in and wandering the woods whatever the season.

Hunters may camouflage themselves for a few weeks a year to not be detected by potential game but being discreet and undetectable can mean the difference between life and death for wildlife the year round.

Advantage and adaption in nature mean survival, period, and natural camouflage is nature’s most prevalent and remarkable adaptation.

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t – The Four Types of Camouflage

Camouflage is also known as cryptic coloration – “a tactic to hide or disguise by blending into surroundings.” While humans have not evolved to camouflage themselves naturally, one might say our ability to create and where clothes provide a unique adaptive camouflage in and of itself.

In nature, however, there are generally four types of camouflage: concealing colorationdisruptive colorationdisguise, and mimicry. Depending on the specific species, environment, and predators, wildlife uses camouflage to conceal their location, identity, and movement, remaining as hidden as possible from both predators and potential prey. 

Animals rely on altering or adapting either pigmentation or physical structures or sometimes both depending on the animal. But changes in appearance are only one part of the camouflage equation, the other is how animals see.

Looking Without Seeing

“Most all animal’s eyes are made up of a series of internal rods and cones. Each of these serves a function of interpreting light as shape and color. Ungulates or hooved animals have been determined to lack the cones required to easily discern colors in the red spectrum. From this, we can determine that they are effectively red-green color-blind. This means that most shades of greens, browns, yellows, oranges and reds are all seen as one similar color to deer. This is why hunters are able to wear bright blaze orange clothes without standing out from the natural surrounding environment. However, it should be noted that the other side of the color table, blue, can be determined as extremely out of place to a deer just as it is to the human eye.”


The science of vision across the animal kingdom is a fascinating and inexhaustible subject of study! All species' vision depends on the unique differences in their eye’s anatomy, and each animal’s vision is seemingly adapted to its extremely distinct set of environmental circumstances. 

With the help of clothing and a little creativity, humans can mimic, blend in, and disappear in a variety of natural and manufactured environments, and while our vision is more adapted than much of the animal kingdom to certain kinds of light, humans can still be easily tricked into seeing nothing where something is most certainly present.

Keep your eyes on the kitchen table this coming week and you’re likely to see one of nature’s more visually acute birds dressing the dinner table. Wild turkeys have eyesight that is three times better than humans and they have the ability to see 360 degrees within a second! That said, give thanks this Thanksgiving if the turkey is on the menu that humans have evolved more than one way to set the table for dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving from Berlin Optical Expressions