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    Default Predators with poor camouflage?

    Hey guys,

    I'm setting up a campaign on Chult (D&D, Faerun) and I'd really like to use art from MTG (Ixilan) in this. A curious problem came to my mind. Should predators not have the best possible camouflage available? Heck, even herbivores use camouflage patterns. What would be an evolutionary reason, for a predator, to look all feathery and color-y?

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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    Mating purposes? Look at certain species of birds, like the peacock where bright and vibrant plumage, and showing it off is a vital part of the mating ritual.

    Alternatively perhaps the predator normally inhabits an area with more vibrant flora where it WOULD have camouflaged better, but has wandered out of its normal territory.

    The last argument I might make is that itís such an apex predator that it never needed to evolve camouflage, so itís coloration just evolved that way.

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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    A couple of reasons come to mind:

    Attracting a mate. If you can still catch and kill sufficient prey/avoid predators while wearing a rainbow of color, potential mates will see that as a benefit. Peacocks are an example of this.

    It is camouflage! This requires the jungle be a veritable riot of colorful flowers and plants.

    Edit: Huh. Ninja'd, it would appear, with nearly identical suggestions...
    Last edited by Lord Torath; 2018-02-02 at 08:55 AM.
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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    I'd take another look at that picture. That dino is actually quite well camouflaged. Most of it's body seems to blend into the surroundings, while the feathers could easily look natural if it stood still, provided the Jungle has plenty of flowers and other colorful plants.
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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    Evolution doesn't actually NEED a reason to throw random mutations into our genetics. It only needs the mutation to not be an active deterrent to us passing on our genes.

    Modern science actually suggests that dinosaurs like this one very likely DID have feathers (though the color is more difficult to determine), largely due to their direct relationship with birds and fossil evidence that has preserved feather impressions. If nothing in their hunting and mating habits was affected by the presence of their feathers, their genetics would have no reason to weed out the genes that produced the feathers.

    People have talked about the potential applications to mating. So far as hunting, this predator might not have much need for stealth. Their speed and power combined with heightened senses may allow them to hunt like some sharks, sensing food from a long range and just charging at their prey faster than the other animal can evade.

    I mean, it's natural to think that the thunder of its footsteps would give it away, but that argument might forget that a world with this dinosaur probably has a good number of other dinosaurs. Hearing the thundering footsteps of large animals might not be so rare as we might think.

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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    If the predator takes a significant amount of its prey by chasing smaller creatures off of their kills, bright colors wouldn't be as much of a hindrance, and might even be an asset if they make it more intimidating. I mention this in particular because kleptoparasitism of this kind is a suggested feeding strategy for T. rex.
    Also, based on the background of your art, this argument doesn't apply, but a particularly large animal in an area with no cover might be so obvious that no amount of camouflage will help it. If a creature living on the plains is 40 feet long and stands 12 feet at the hip, most of the time, prey will be looking up at it, seeing an enormous, unmistakable silhouette against the sky. At that point, only camouflage matching the color of the sky will be of significant help, and that will change based on the weather and time of day.

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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    On the topic of birds, raptors don't use camouflage. Nocturnal birds like owls hunt at night, and peregrine falcons are just so fast they can hit a target before it sees them coming.

    Wolves hunt in packs and don't use camouflage.

    Camouflage is really for ambush predators, and most prey species trying not to be spotted. In the case of the octopus, you are both of these at the same time.
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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    As VoxRations brought up, T-Rex's are believed to not quite be the predator everyone thinks.
    Much more like a scavenger, than a hunter.
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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    Quote Originally Posted by PrismCat21 View Post
    As VoxRations brought up, T-Rex's are believed to not quite be the predator everyone thinks.
    Much more like a scavenger, than a hunter.
    That's been a theory for a long time.

    The presence of partially healed T. rex bite marks on herbivore bones though, strongly suggests otherwise - that T. rex tended to attack live prey rather than dead prey, with the prey sometimes escaping with scars to tell the tale.
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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    If anything, hyenas are exactly as predatory as lions (lions steal hyena kills slightly more than the reverse).

    There's hints that some macropredatory dinosaurs lived in family groups like hyenas or lions - it's not clear if tyrannosaurs did though.
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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    One thing that's very important to consider when looking at camouflage: it may not be intended for us. Most creatures don't perceive color the same way we do, and so what looks blindingly obvious to us can often be very subtle to them, and vice versa. Case in point: Zebras

    Another example: Raptors. They do have camouflage. That's why most birds are creamy colored from below, to blend in with the clouds.

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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    Quote Originally Posted by NRSASD View Post
    Another example: Raptors. They do have camouflage. That's why most birds are creamy colored from below, to blend in with the clouds.
    Some do. Others don't. Osprey are definitely lighter on the bottom than the top. Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles? Not so much.
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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    @Lord Torath: True. Hence the word most. Though I'd argue that the brown plumage is probably designed to hide while against bark or similar dark surfaces. It's what most owl camo is for after all.

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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    Quote Originally Posted by NRSASD View Post
    One thing that's very important to consider when looking at camouflage: it may not be intended for us. Most creatures don't perceive color the same way we do, and so what looks blindingly obvious to us can often be very subtle to them, and vice versa.
    With red-green blindness, they would be uniformly "not sky" colored, with variation in intensity of hue.
    And if you did have full trichromatic, there's still the ridiculous number of flowering plants in fantasy jungles to mix with... and the creatures most likely to notice you not fitting in are most likely to be too small to be good game.

    besides, everyone knows T-rexes can be ridiculously stealthy. The one at the end of Jurassic Park was already in the rotunda and nobody noticed - not even the raptors - until it attacked.
    Quetzalrex just has to stand slightly off-screen, and it'll be virtually invisible.
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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    Quote Originally Posted by NRSASD View Post
    One thing that's very important to consider when looking at camouflage: it may not be intended for us. Most creatures don't perceive color the same way we do, and so what looks blindingly obvious to us can often be very subtle to them, and vice versa. Case in point: Zebras .
    This is what I came here to note. Another example: deep sea creatures. They are bright red in daylight, but their natural habitat only has small amounts of blue and green light, so red is practically just as dark as the sea water.
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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    I mean, it's natural to think that the thunder of its footsteps would give it away, but that argument might forget that a world with this dinosaur probably has a good number of other dinosaurs. Hearing the thundering footsteps of large animals might not be so rare as we might think.
    Rexie is big, but so are elephants. Those are in fact about as big as T. rex was, and they don't thunder. Sure, elephants have four feet, but they don't have the same spring to their step a proper toe walking creature does. The thundering footsteps are a nice cinematic touch, but they don't make a lot of sense when even in the same movies much bigger dinosaurs don't have them.

    Quote Originally Posted by PrismCat21 View Post
    As VoxRations brought up, T-Rex's are believed to not quite be the predator everyone thinks.
    Much more like a scavenger, than a hunter.
    Jack Horner strikes again.

    A land animal the size of T. rex cant sustain himself on scavenging. Vultures are the only modern animals of any halfway decent size that manage it, and they can travel fast and efficient while looking out for food across miles of landscape. There was probably a fair bit of plundering involved, chasing other predators away from their own kills, like lions do a lot to animals like hyenas. But that wouldn't have been enough to sustain an animal that size. Not even in a world where the herbivores are larger as well, that just spreads them out further across the landscape.



    And yes, their eyesight was incredible, they were not constantly bumping into trees because those don't move enough.

    Quote Originally Posted by hamishspence View Post
    If anything, hyenas are exactly as predatory as lions (lions steal hyena kills slightly more than the reverse).

    There's hints that some macropredatory dinosaurs lived in family groups like hyenas or lions - it's not clear if tyrannosaurs did though.
    Yes, there was a trackway of about 6 "raptors" walking in formation (as in: it looked like they passed together rather than at separate times) some years back. That was a cool find.

    Personally I also like the idea of predatory dinosaurs working in pairs. It's common in birds, a lot of species mate for life and the pair is the main unit of operation, even within larger social groups like seen in jackdaws and rooks. Crows and seagulls and such have build up a nice box of tricks for two. Like raiding a nest: one bird annoys the bird on the nest, when they lash out the other grabs the egg. Garbage cans are also no problem: one holds up the lid, the other tosses out as much trash as they can as fast as they can. The humans come to chase them away but are too lazy to put the garbage back, so they just come back for dinner. This seems like it could also work well for hunting dinosaurs. It's a lot harder to defend from two sides then from one, it's a lot easier to not get hurt by a prey if the dangerous bits are pointed the other way and it's a lot easier to feed two giant monsters than a whole group. In this scenario young dinosaurs might stock around for a while too, so you'd get small family groups like in wolves (the large packs dominated by an alpha pair we often imagine are more of an in captivity thing).
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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    Quote Originally Posted by NRSASD View Post
    One thing that's very important to consider when looking at camouflage: it may not be intended for us. Most creatures don't perceive color the same way we do, and so what looks blindingly obvious to us can often be very subtle to them, and vice versa. Case in point: Zebras

    Another example: Raptors. They do have camouflage. That's why most birds are creamy colored from below, to blend in with the clouds.
    On the subject of Zebras, there is some evidence that the stripes are camouflage against insects, not lions. To a lion, the stripes are just a visible as they are to us.

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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lvl 2 Expert View Post
    Jack Horner strikes again.

    A land animal the size of T. rex cant sustain himself on scavenging. Vultures are the only modern animals of any halfway decent size that manage it, and they can travel fast and efficient while looking out for food across miles of landscape. There was probably a fair bit of plundering involved, chasing other predators away from their own kills, like lions do a lot to animals like hyenas. But that wouldn't have been enough to sustain an animal that size. Not even in a world where the herbivores are larger as well, that just spreads them out further across the landscape.
    Correct. They could not sustain themselves on scavenging alone. I said nothing to imply such.
    Every time I've heard a discussion about dinosaurs, everyone believed T-Rex's were the ultimate apex predator. Only eating what it hunted and killed itself. Never stooping so low as to scavenge for it's food unless it's severely hurt or sick.
    That's basically what the average person thinks.
    'I' was saying it is believed that it was not true.

    I only know three things about Jack Horner. None of which apply to anything I've said.
    1. He found a nesting site, I believe somewhere in the Midwest.
    2. He was an adviser on Jurassic Park
    3. When he was little, he was known for sitting in a corner, eating pie.

    What's more, I largely don't care.
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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lvl 2 Expert View Post

    Yes, there was a trackway of about 6 "raptors" walking in formation (as in: it looked like they passed together rather than at separate times) some years back. That was a cool find.
    I was thinking more of bonebeds of giant allosauroids (T.rex sized) of various ages - Mapusaurus:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mapusaurus

    though there's a 2014-discovered T. rex trackway that's also thought to be evidence of gregariousness:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrannosaurus
    Quote Originally Posted by PrismCat21 View Post
    Every time I've heard a discussion about dinosaurs, everyone believed T-Rex's were the ultimate apex predator. Only eating what it hunted and killed itself. Never stooping so low as to scavenge for it's food unless it's severely hurt or sick.
    That's basically what the average person thinks.

    Regarding "ultimate apex predator" - I think that's an exaggeration of the way real-life apex predators act. They scavenge whenever the opportunity comes up, they prefer to target the young, old, and injured, etc.

    T. Rex would have been no different, even under the "hunter" interpretation.

    It's the "pure scavenger idea" that those who criticise the scavenger hypothesis are attacking - not the idea that it would have scavenged if it came across fairly fresh corpses.
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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    Quote Originally Posted by PrismCat21 View Post
    I only know three things about Jack Horner
    And I only know one: that he was the guy who kept finding ever more ridiculous reasons why T. rex (but strangely enough very few other large theropods) had to have been a slow moving nearly blind pure scavenger. (Even if sometimes he would then deny he ever seriously made that case.) So every time someone starts with a sentence that sounds anything like "T. rex was a scavenger" I will assume they're in that half of the even just mildly interested in dinosaurs community that has heard Jack Horner's ideas ones too often. Especially if they follow up with the assertion that very few people actually know this, while it's one of the most widespread supposed facts about dinosaurs.

    The thing where less interested people make a sharp distinction between scavengers who never hunt and hunters who never scavenge is probably more of a general thing anyway, noble lions and creepy hyena's and such. It's nice if they can overclassify everything into small enough boxes to understand. Anyone saying rexie never would have touched a thing hey didn't kill themselves simply probably doesn't really know what a predator is, or ignores it on purpose to construct a semi-fictional version of the past (as in: a proper movie tyrannosaurus would never scavenge, they're supposed to show it as a predator, not engaging in natural behavior from which people will draw the wrong conclusions).
    Last edited by Lvl 2 Expert; 2018-02-03 at 05:50 AM.
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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    Quote Originally Posted by hamishspence View Post
    I was thinking more of bonebeds of giant allosauroids (T.rex sized) of various ages - Mapusaurus:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mapusaurus

    though there's a 2014-discovered T. rex trackway that's also thought to be evidence of gregariousness:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrannosaurus
    Thanks, very informative. I was thinking of these dromeosaurids.

    (EDIT: O yeah, was going to edit this into that last post before hitting send. Ah wel...)
    Last edited by Lvl 2 Expert; 2018-02-03 at 05:50 AM.
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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    I don't know much about Chult, but...Do the dinosaurs have magic? I could easily see the magical dark jungle producing a few dinos with an ability to confuse prey with color changing feathers or try to attract a mate with how much they can change color, like a cuttlefish.
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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    Quote Originally Posted by Geddy2112 View Post
    On the topic of birds, raptors don't use camouflage. Nocturnal birds like owls hunt at night, and peregrine falcons are just so fast they can hit a target before it sees them coming.

    Wolves hunt in packs and don't use camouflage.

    Camouflage is really for ambush predators, and most prey species trying not to be spotted. In the case of the octopus, you are both of these at the same time.
    Camo fur (or skin) is something of a constant. See arctic wolves. It is an instantaneous advantage. Even bears vary in colour based on habitat.

    There are three factors that I know that cause the choice of highly visible colours:

    #1 has already been called out, being the more attractive mate.

    #2 is the imitation game. Like the innocuous milk snake imitating the colourful pattern of the dangerous coral snake. You see this with fake bees, too. (MŁllerian mimicry)

    #3 underlies to #2: some extremely poisonous, or painful, or foul tasting animals sport highly visible colourations, like small frogs in the Amazon. There are a few explanations about how this came to be, but it's frequently found in nature. (Aposematism)

    There also are zebras. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/...cience-africa/

    And there also can be small things that give advantages to the species, like the beak of a seagull having a red dot. That dot is the part of the beak that is hit by younglings when they want to be fed. Apparently, it makes survival of the little ones much more likely.

    Eyes also are a disadvantage when it comes to camouflage, but they are really useful, so most kept them.

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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    After all the digression, I had to reread the OP...

    A predator could have bright coloration for the following reasons (including several that were previously stated.)

    When camo doesn't matter. Such as a predator that can out run it's prey with minimal effort. Small pack hunters, or large theropods hunting young sauropods would fit here, as would many falcons and eagles. Scavengers would also fit here, but see above posts for that can of worms.

    When prey species are colorblind. I won't get into detail, (because I'm not a zoologic optometrist,) but some animals are unable to see specific colors. Others process visual information at a lover importance to scent or hearing, thus not really nothing the colors. Still other creatures see in different wavelengths, meaning they may not see colors at one end of the light spectrum, but have a greater ability to see at the opposite end, (see ultraviolet etc.)

    Coloring may be mutable. There are several examples of this listed above. The octopus and peacock are great examples, but the cobra and frilled-lizard are other examples. Essentially, skin colors could be changed, or feathers and crests tucked away.

    It is possible that the colorful markings could act as a lure, as with some deep sea creatures.

    Other animals that hunt nocturnally or underground wouldn't be impacted much by color. Nor would a creature able to mask the color through some magic ability.

    It's even possible that a dominant male might develop the coloration, but females would not. Thus encouraging females to do most hunting. Or you could flip it and say juveniles have the colors, but loose them after mating.

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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    Quote Originally Posted by redwizard007 View Post
    It's even possible that a dominant male might develop the coloration, but females would not. Thus encouraging females to do most hunting. Or you could flip it and say juveniles have the colors, but loose them after mating.
    It could even be a seasonal thing similar to antlers on deer. Let's say they want to be nesting in late winter/early spring and it takes a small number of months to brew up eggs they could have some cool autumn colors as a mating display only in autumn. Similar reasoning can lead to tropical flower colors in tropical flower season or just very non-camouflaged bright colors anywhere at any specific time.

    Most large birds molt only mold slowly over the course of two years or so, but flightless birds seem the exception, with ostriches just plain replacing all their feathers ones a year. From there on all you need is the feathers changing color at one point (either being brighter as new feathers or as old "withering" feathers) or you'd need some sort of intermediary feathers, while the old ones drop and the new ones grow there is a layer of temporary fuzzy plumage sitting between the normal feathers and those are the colorful ones. Neither is really a thing in nature I think, but both are close enough to something that could happen to use semi-speculatively in a game.
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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    Quote Originally Posted by Excession View Post
    On the subject of Zebras, there is some evidence that the stripes are camouflage against insects, not lions. To a lion, the stripes are just a visible as they are to us.
    Mind you, part of the idea might be to hide an individual in the group as they run, since a lion or other large predator isn't hunting by scent once the chase starts.

    Quote Originally Posted by hamishspence View Post
    Regarding "ultimate apex predator" - I think that's an exaggeration of the way real-life apex predators act. They scavenge whenever the opportunity comes up, they prefer to target the young, old, and injured, etc.

    T. Rex would have been no different, even under the "hunter" interpretation.

    It's the "pure scavenger idea" that those who criticise the scavenger hypothesis are attacking - not the idea that it would have scavenged if it came across fairly fresh corpses.
    And in D&D Land the real ultimate apex predator is a dragon. A t-rex doesn't even come closed in comparison. Beside, everybody knows that the reason apex predators are large marine mammals like sperm whales.

    On the topic t-rex stealth keep in mind that full grown bull Indian elephant can weigh 12 tons and be stealthy as all get out, they can veritably sneak through a jungle. They aren't going to be noticed unless they want to be, or are running for some reason.
    Last edited by Beleriphon; 2018-02-04 at 03:45 PM.

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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    Quote Originally Posted by Beleriphon View Post
    Mind you, part of the idea might be to hide an individual in the group as they run, since a lion or other large predator isn't hunting by scent once the chase starts.
    Short of painting a bunch of zebras white and seeing if the lions catch them easier, I'm not sure how that idea can be tested. The insect one they have been able to test, and it did seem to work. Maybe there is some data out there comparing hunt success of zebras and some similar animal without any stripes. This idea also assumes the lion will be charging into a bunched up group of zebras, which is not always the case.

    There was also some evidence for the stripes helping with cooling. The black bits get hotter, and create more convection, and the boundaries between different convection speeds create turbulence, which may get enough extra air moving past the zebra's skin to cool them more than just being plain white would.

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    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    Quote Originally Posted by Excession View Post
    Short of painting a bunch of zebras white and seeing if the lions catch them easier, I'm not sure how that idea can be tested. The insect one they have been able to test, and it did seem to work. Maybe there is some data out there comparing hunt success of zebras and some similar animal without any stripes. This idea also assumes the lion will be charging into a bunched up group of zebras, which is not always the case.
    Very true, a lion is an ambush predator for the most part trying to find the one prey creature that is a little too far from the herd. I recall that bit of info from a not too old NatGeo documentary that compared to hunting success of lions killing zebra versus similar herbivores like atelope.

    There was also some evidence for the stripes helping with cooling. The black bits get hotter, and create more convection, and the boundaries between different convection speeds create turbulence, which may get enough extra air moving past the zebra's skin to cool them more than just being plain white would.
    That make sense.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Barbarian in the Playground
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Gender
    Female

    Default Re: Predators with poor camouflage?

    When you're as big as a T. rex, you might as well be rainbow coloured to attract mates, since you're not going to be sneaking around regardless.

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