Background matching in the brown shrimp Crangon crangon: Adaptive camouflage and behavioural-plasticity

Andjin Siegenthaler, Alexander Mastin, Clément Dufaut, Debapriya Mondal, Chiara Benvenuto*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


A combination of burrowing behaviour and very efficient background matching makes the brown shrimp Crangon crangon almost invisible to potential predators and prey. This raises questions on how shrimp succeed in concealing themselves in the heterogeneous and dynamic estuarine habitats they inhabit and what type of environmental variables and behavioural factors affect their colour change abilities. Using a series of behavioural experiments, we show that the brown shrimp is capable of repeated fast colour adaptations (20% change in dark pigment cover within one hour) and that its background matching ability is mainly influenced by illumination and sediment colour. Novel insights are provided on the occurrence of non-adaptive (possibly stress) responses to background changes after long-time exposure to a constant background colour or during unfavourable conditions for burying. Shrimp showed high levels of intra-and inter-individual variation, demonstrating a complex balance between behavioural-plasticity and environmental adaptation. As such, the study of crustacean colour changes represents a valuable opportunity to investigate colour adaptations in dynamic habitats and can help us to identify the mayor environmental and behavioural factors influencing the evolution of animal background matching.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3292
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


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