Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage, Peter Forbes

Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage, Peter Forbes


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Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage, Peter Forbes

Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage, Peter Forbes

This may well be the only book on evolution that we will ever review on this site, and it’s a good one. Forbes' main theme is the development of our understanding of the processes behind natural mimicry, where one harmless species comes to resemble another, more dangerous one.

Our story begins in the Amazonian jungle in the mid Nineteenth century, where two British explorers became the first men to notice mimicry in nature, when they realised that a number of butterflies were mimicking other species.

Their discovery came at the same time as the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, and since then the study of mimicry has played a major role in our understanding of evolution.

Twelve of the book's sixteen chapters focus on the natural world. These chapters tell a fascinating story of scientific discovery and controversy, coming right up to the present day. Forbes does a very good job of explaining some very complicated theories, and has produced a classic work of popular science.

This only leaves the question of why we are reviewing this book. The answer comes in the other four chapters, which look at the attempts made by some of the leading naturalists and biologists of the period to use their theories and knowledge to help camouflage Allied ships, aircraft, tanks and other facilities during the two World Wars.

During the First World War this was largely limited to the 'dazzle' patterns applied to warships, but in the Second World War camouflage and mimicry came into their own, with fake airfields and factories, inflatable tanks and a myriad of other ideas, which reached their peak in North Africa, during the preparation for Montgomery's offensive at El Alamein, before playing a major part in the deception plans before D-Day.

Chapters
1 Darwinians, mockers and mimics
2 Swallowtails and Amazon
3 Delight in deception
4 Pangenesis
5 On the wings of angels
6 Dazzle in the dock: The First World War
7 Camouflage and cubism in the First World War
8 Hopeful monsters?
9 The natural history of the visual pun
10 Cannibals and Sunshields
11 Dazzle (revisited) to D-Day
12 From butterflies to babies and back
13 The aromas of mimicry
14 The tinkerer's palette
15 The Heliconius variations
16 A shifting spectrum
Epilogue

Author: Peter Forbes
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 283
Publisher: Yale
Year: 2009



Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage by Peter Forbes wins 㿞,000 Warwick Prize for Writing

Peter Forbes was announced tonight (Tuesday 22 March, 2011) as the winner of the £50,000 Warwick Prize for Writing for Dazzled and Deceived (Yale University Press), his fascinating story of mimicry and camouflage in nature, art and warfare.

This unique biennial prize, launched in 2009, is run and self-funded by the University of Warwick. It is an international cross-disciplinary award open to any genre or form of writing on a given theme. This year&rsquos theme was &lsquocolour&rsquo.

Peter Forbes, a writer, journalist and editor with a longstanding interest in the relationship between science and art, was one of six authors shortlisted. On receiving his award he said: &ldquoIn an over-specialized world, the multi-disciplinary Warwick Prize is an oasis of genre-busting. With its themes, stressing content as well as writing, it seemed a brilliant idea to me when launched. But I couldn&rsquot imagine, when I was writing Dazzled and Deceived, with its flaunted and concealing colours in nature, art and warfare, that some kind of convergence of the twain would see its theme chime with that of the Prize in its second outing. Now that the book has won, it feels like more than a Prize: to me it feels like a vindication of a life spent bouncing science off art and vice versa. The fact that the Prize comes from an academic institution that has always championed imaginative writing and that the book was chosen by an exceptionally creative group of judges makes it all the more precious&rdquo.

Interpreting the theme of this year&rsquos prize of &lsquocolour&rsquo in different ways, the shortlisted works included an &lsquounvarnished truth&rsquo about literary censorship in apartheid South Africa a tale about the aftermath of civil war in Sierra Leone a lyrically written novel about contemporary Afghanistan an anthropologist&rsquos meditation on the mysteries of color and poems recalling the Caribbean&rsquos complex colonial legacy. (See details of the shortlist in the notes to editors).

The judging panel was chaired by the broadcaster, children's novelist, poet and author of 140 books, Michael Rosen. He explained: &ldquoDazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage was singled out for a number of reasons. It&rsquos a book about scientific concepts it&rsquos a book about art and it&rsquos actually an exciting read because Forbes does what all good storytellers do &ndash he reveals and conceals in equal measure. It is also a book of massive surprises. How does he bring the surrealists into this? I was delighted to revisit my old friends the melanin moths who were the standby of A-Level and first year university teaching about evolution. At one moment I thought the whole story was going down the pan. Would my education be in ruins? But no, Forbes pulled the moths from the fire!&rdquo

The University of Warwick&rsquos Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nigel Thrift, added: &ldquoPeter Forbes&rsquo work Dazzled and Deceived is a superb winner for the Warwick Prize for Writing. It is a great work by an accomplished writer, who is well established in his career. However I am equally delighted to announce today that the University of Warwick is to offer two £5,000 bursaries for undergraduate students wishing to study on Warwick&rsquos English Literature and Creative Writing undergraduate degree programme. This will give two young people the chance to start a journey which may lead to them producing their own award winning writing.&rdquo

As part of his prize Peter Forbes is taking up a residency at Warwick University at some point over the next eighteen months, details of which are to be confirmed.

Joining Michael Rosen on the judging panel was The Times literary editor Erica Wagner crossbench peer Lola Young author and editorial director of Chatto & Windus Jenny Uglow and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Warwick Professor Nigel Thrift.

For further information on The Warwick Prize for Writing please contact:

Rachel Duffield at Colman Getty
Tel: +44 (0)20 7631 2666 Fax: +44 (0)20 7631 2699
Email: [email protected]

For further information on the University of Warwick please contact:

Peter Dunn, Press and Media Relations Manager at the University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0)2476 523708 or +44(0)7767 655860
Email: [email protected]

  • The University of Warwick is one of the UK&rsquos leading research universities. Consistently ranked in the top 10 of all the University league tables produced by UK national newspapers and ranked 7th among the UK's 100 universities for quality of research (Funding Councils' Research Assessment Exercise, 2008)
  • The £50,000 Warwick Prize is entirely self-funded by the University of Warwick. The University is able to make such an investment as it generates 63% of its own income
  • In addition to the £50,000 monetary prize, the winning author will be awarded the opportunity to take up a short placement at the University of Warwick
  • The Warwick Prize for Writing is an innovative new literature prize that involves global competition, and crosses all disciplines. The Prize will be given biennially for an excellent and substantial piece of writing in the English language, in any genre or form, on a theme which will change with every award

About the book: Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage by Peter Forbes (Yale University Press)

In nature thousands of creatures have perfected the art of deception &ndash butterflies, moths, fish, birds, insects and snakes imitate the colours and patterns of other animals or their surroundings to protect themselves, attract or repel, to bluff, warn and to hide. The warning colours employed by animals are the same ones we use in our danger signs: red, yellow, white and black. Dazzled and Deceived takes us on a journey to show how some of the world&rsquos most remarkable creatures have given up their secrets with far-ranging consequences: from the first examples of Darwin&rsquos natural selection in action, the sophisticated method developed to protect troops in combat, a cure for Rhesus babies to some of the very latest breakthroughs in understanding the genetics of evolution. Dazzled and Deceived sheds new light on the greatest quest: to understand the processes of life at its deepest level and is replete with colourful creatures and stories, both animal and human.

About the author

Peter Forbes is a writer with a special interest in the relationship between art and science. He initially trained as a chemist and worked in pharmaceutical and popular natural history publishing. He has written numerous articles and reviews, many specializing in the relation between the arts and science, for the Guardian, Independent, The Times, Daily Mail, Financial Times, Scientific American, New Scientist, World Medicine, Modern Painters, New Statesman, and other magazines.

He was editor of the Poetry Society&rsquos Poetry Review from 1986-2002 and played a key role in the emergence of the celebrated New Generation Poets. His previous books include The Gecko&rsquos Foot (Fourth Estate, 2005) he edited the poetry anthology Scanning the Century and translated Primo Levi&rsquos The Search for Roots, both Penguin. He is currently Royal Literary Fund Fellow at St George's, University of London.

About the shortlisted works:

The Wasted Vigil is Nadeem Aslam&rsquos follow up to the hugely acclaimed and prize-winning, Maps for Lost Lovers.

A Russian woman Lara, arrives in Afghanistan at the house of English widower Marcus Caldwell searching for clues about her brother&rsquos disappearance. In the days that follow, she is joined by two Americans, a young Afghan teacher, Dunia, and Casa, a radicalised young man. As their paths cross, it becomes apparent their stories are inextricably linked.

The Wasted Vigil engages with the troubled history and landscape of Afghanistan over the past two decades, and its impact on the lives of six very different characters whose fates are tied together. This is a compelling, passionate and haunting novel, both an unflinching portrait of war and a heartbreaking love story. It is a brave and important book with a breathtaking narrative that marks Nadeem Aslam as a world writer of major importance.

Nadeem Aslam&rsquos first novel Season of the Rainbirds (1993), was described by Salman Rushdie as &lsquoone of the most impressive first novels of recent years.&rsquo Maps for Lost Lovers (2004) was hailed by Boyd Tonkin in the Independent as &lsquothe most gorgeously written British novel of the year&rsquo, and became one of the most critically acclaimed novels of 2004. It was long-listed for the Booker Prize 2004, short-listed for the IMPAC Prize 2006 and won the Kiriyama Prize 2005 and the Encore Award 2005. He was also named Decibel Writer of the Year in 2005. Born in Pakistan, he now lives in England.

Adrian Lockheart is a psychologist escaping his life in England. Arriving in Freetown in the wake of civil war, he struggles with the intensity of the heat, dirt and dust, and with the secrets this country hides. Despite the gulf of experience and understanding between them, Adrian finds unexpected friendship in a young surgeon at the hospital, the charismatic Kai Mansaray, and begins to build a new life just as Kai makes plans to leave.

Aminatta Forna was born in Scotland and raised in West Africa. Her first book, The Devil that Danced on the Water, was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2003. Her novel Ancestor Stones was winner of the 2008 Hurston Wright Legacy Award, the Literaturpreis in Germany, was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and selected by the Washington Post as one of the most important books of 2007. In 2007 Vanity Fair named Aminatta as one of Africa&rsquos most promising new writers. Aminatta has also written for magazines and newspapers, radio and television, and presented television documentaries on Africa&rsquos history and art. Aminatta Forna lives in London with her husband.

  • The Literature Police: Apartheid Censorship and its Cultural Consequencesby Peter D McDonald (Oxford University Press)

The Literature Police: Apartheid Censorship and its Cultural Consequences uncovers the tangled stories of censorship and literature in apartheid South Africa, drawing on a wealth of new evidence from censorship archives, archives of resistance publishers and writers' groups, and oral testimony. A unique perspective on one of the most repressive, anachronistic and racist states in the post-war era.

Peter D. McDonald was born in Cape Town in 1964 and educated in South Africa and the United Kingdom. He has written extensively on the history of &lsquoliterature&rsquo as a category from the nineteenth century to the present day, on publishing history, and on the relationship between literary institutions and the modern state. His publications include British Literary Culture and Publishing Practice, 1880&ndash1914 (1997) and Making Meaning: &lsquoPrinters of the Mind&rsquo and Other Essays by D F McKenzie (2002), co-edited with Michael Suarez. He is currently a Fellow of St Hugh&rsquos College and a lecturer in English at the University of Oxford.

  • What Color is the Sacred?by Michael Taussig (University of Chicago Press)

Over the past thirty years, visionary anthropologist Michael Taussig has crafted a highly distinctive body of work. Playful, enthralling, and whip-smart, his writing makes ingenious connections between ideas, thinkers, and things. An extended meditation on the mysteries of color and the fascination they provoke, What Color Is the Sacred? is the next step on Taussig&rsquos remarkable intellectual path.

Ranging from Goethe to Walter Benjamin to William S. Burroughs, Taussig mounts a brilliant investigation into the Western world&rsquos troubled relationship with vivid color, focusing on the way color has played a role in episodes of spectacular violence from the West&rsquos colonial conquests to Auschwitz.

Michael Taussig is professor of anthropology at Columbia University and the author of several books, including Walter Benjamin&rsquos Grave and My Cocaine Museum, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

In White Egrets, Derek Walcott treats his characteristic subjects, such as the Caribbean&rsquos complex colonial legacy, the Western artistic tradition, the blessings and withholdings of old Europe, the unaccommodating sublime of the new world and the poet&rsquos place in all of this &mdash with a passionate intensity and drive that recall his greatest work. Through the systolic and mesmerizing repetition of theme and imagery, Walcott carries his surf-like cadence from poem to poem, and from sequence to sequence in this celebratory and close-knit collection.

Derek Walcott was born in St Lucia in 1930. The author of many plays and books of poetry, he was awarded the Queen&rsquos Medal for Poetry in 1988 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992. He now divides his time between homes in St Lucia and New York.


ISBN 13: 9780300178968

Nature has perfected the art of deception. Thousands of creatures all over the world—including butterflies, moths, fish, birds, insects and snakes—have honed and practiced camouflage over hundreds of millions of years. Imitating other animals or their surroundings, nature’s fakers use mimicry to protect themselves, to attract and repel, to bluff and warn, to forage, and to hide. The advantages of mimicry are obvious𠅋ut how does 𠇋lind” nature do it? And how has humanity learned to profit from nature’s ploys?

Dazzled and Deceived tells the unique and fascinating story of mimicry and camouflage in science, art, warfare, and the natural world. Discovered in the 1850s by the young English naturalists Henry Walter Bates and Alfred Russel Wallace in the Amazonian rainforest, the phenomenon of mimicry was seized upon as the first independent validation of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. But mimicry and camouflage also created a huge impact outside the laboratory walls. Peter Forbes’s cultural history links mimicry and camouflage to art, literature, military tactics, and medical cures across the twentieth century, and charts its intricate involvement with the perennial dispute between evolution and creationism.

As Dazzled and Deceived unravels the concept of mimicry, Forbes introduces colorful stories and a dazzling cast of characters—Roosevelt, Picasso, Nabokov, Churchill, and Darwin himself, to name a few—whom its mystery influenced and enthralled. Illuminating and lively, Dazzled and Deceived sheds new light on the greatest quest: to understand the processes of life at its deepest level.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

Peter Forbes is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Queen Mary University of London.

""Dazzled and Deceived" is surely destined to become a classic. Peter Forbes has written a compelling and fascinating history of mimicry and camouflage but, much more than that, he persuades us that mimicry is at the heart of the story of evolution. He has found an exciting and novel way of presenting this ever-intractable story, and raises important questions which the theory of evolution has hardly begun to answer."--Christopher Potter, author of "You Are Here: A Portable History of the Universe
"--Christopher Potter

"From the great battle of life in nature to the great battlefields of human conflict, mimicry is one of the oldest and most effective tricks in all warfare. In this fascinating synthesis of science, art and history, Peter Forbes chronicles the marvellous and ingenious devices that evolution has produced and humans have designed to deceive foes. "Dazzled and Deceived" is a delightful journey into our growing understanding of how life imitates art." - Sean B. Carroll, author of" Remarkable Creatures" and" The Making of the Fittest

"It is a long time since I read a book that gave me so much enjoyment and told me so much both about the animal world and about human ingenuity. This is a wonderful story, engagingly told." - Michael Ruse, author of "Darwin and its Discontents

""Dazzled and Deceived" tells a fine story. It is a delight . . . I unhesitatingly recommend the book to both scientists and nonscientists."--i>American Scientist
"--Steven Vogel "American Scientist "

"This is a fascinating exploration of the use of visual trickery to disguise the nature of objects both in the living world and in the military. Overall a wonderful topic that really hasn't been given enough coverage, especially given its importance in understanding the mechanisms of evolution better, and an excellent book. Highly recommended." -- Brian Clegg, Popular Science
--Brian Clegg"Popular Science" (01/28/2010)

"As a military historian I have had to ditch many boyhood passions, but fortunately the study of camouflage mixes nature with military history and art, and Peter Forbes does full justice to this fascinating combination in "Dazzled and Deceived ". [He] tells brilliantly this exciting and colourful story with good anecdotes, bizarre characters and intriguing evidence." -- Tim Neward, "Financial Times"--Tim Neward "Financial Times "

"In this excellent and wide-ranging book, Forbes makes the hidden histories of science recognisable"-- Leena Lindstrom, "Nature"--Leena Lindstrom "Nature "


Dazzled and Deceived : Mimicry and Camouflage

Nature has perfected the art of deception. Thousands of creatures all over the world—including butterflies, moths, fish, birds, insects and snakes—have honed and practiced camouflage over hundreds of millions of years. Imitating other animals or their surroundings, nature’s fakers use mimicry to protect themselves, to attract and repel, to bluff and warn, to forage, and to hide. The advantages of mimicry are obvious—but how does “blind” nature do it? And how has humanity learned to profit from nature’s ploys?

Dazzled and Deceived tells the unique and fascinating story of mimicry and camouflage in science, art, warfare, and the natural world. Discovered in the 1850s by the young English naturalists Henry Walter Bates and Alfred Russel Wallace in the Amazonian rainforest, the phenomenon of mimicry was seized upon as the first independent validation of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. But mimicry and camouflage also created a huge impact outside the laboratory walls. Peter Forbes’s cultural history links mimicry and camouflage to art, literature, military tactics, and medical cures across the twentieth century, and charts its intricate involvement with the perennial dispute between evolution and creationism.

As Dazzled and Deceived unravels the concept of mimicry, Forbes introduces colorful stories and a dazzling cast of characters—Roosevelt, Picasso, Nabokov, Churchill, and Darwin himself, to name a few—whom its mystery influenced and enthralled. Illuminating and lively, Dazzled and Deceived sheds new light on the greatest quest: to understand the processes of life at its deepest level.


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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com

Some animals like to sport bright colors, as if they want to be seen. Others favor drab colors, as if they want to blend in and avoid recognition. There must be advantages to both strategies. Soldiers used to sport bright red clothing in the field, and now tend to go with grey and olive blotches, if they are in forest, and beige spotty patterns if they are on sand. The invisible hand of evolution is at work in the natural world and the visible one of tacticians is at work in the military one, both hands working on the vital competition of appearances. There aren't so many soldiers who are still trying to stand out, but the animals who do so, and plenty of soldiers and sailors and animals who try to blend in, all come under the attention of _Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage_ (Yale University Press) by Peter Forbes. The effort toward understanding military and natural camouflage has been not just separate efforts by naturalists and soldiers, but combined work in the field, joined also by artists and even a magician. Just as you would suspect, there are plenty of surprises in this book, along with a fine introduction to the evolution of mimicry down to the current biochemical understandings.

Forbes spends much of the book on butterflies, like _Leptalis_, which use camouflage in a distinct way. They mimic the bright colors and patterns of another butterfly, the _Heliconidae_. What was the advantage of looking like another butterfly? The imitated _Heliconidae_ sported bright colors as a sort of warning it wanted to be seen and recognized, because it tasted bad and was unpalatable. The more recognizable it was, the more often bird predators would leave it alone. But _Leptalis_, on the other hand, was tasty. It displayed the warning colors and markings of _Heliconidae_, but in the case of _Leptalis_, the warnings were false. False or true, the warnings helped give each butterfly a better chance of surviving and passing on its genes. The false imitation warnings were complicated enough (and occur in other species like snakes, not just insects), but there were true imitation warnings as well. Unrelated species of bad-tasting butterflies (and even moths) shared colors and markings. Their true warnings reinforced each other every time a bird tried to eat one and learned how bad a creature with such appearance tasted. In the 1890s, a cranky New England painter burst into the realm of naturalists who were concerned with camouflage and mimicry. Abbott H. Thayer thought that only an artist could rightly appreciate the profundity of the deceptive pictures made by birds and animals. He obsessively insisted that coloration was for no other purpose than to obscure the animal he didn't accept that colors might be bright for the purpose of warning. He was dogmatic and pugnacious about his discoveries of coloration, and took it upon himself to advise the US Navy about how to disguise its ships during the Spanish-American War. His ideas were ignored, but he did patent the idea of countershading ships, and went on to design disruptive coloration for them. He teamed with the Scots zoologist John Graham Kerr to have British ships painted in "dazzle" patterns, bold darks and lights that obscured the form of the ship and even made it look as if it were on a different heading from its true one. The interplay between military tacticians, naturalists, and artists (which, given the personalities involved, was often angry) gives Forbes a background to tell a broad story about camouflage, including how tanks were hidden in the African campaign of World War Two, and how the flamboyant magician Jasper Maskelyne helped troops and equipment disappear (or was it all hocus-pocus?).

Much of Forbes's book describes the science and scientists working out how chromosomes have activated the chemistry that, for instance, turns inheritance into particular wing colors. There are good profiles of artists and scientists. It is a pleasure, for instance, to read about Miriam Rothschild, who was a member of the famous banking family, and used some of her fortune to equip a laboratory in her home where she investigated how inedible monarch butterflies got their toxins. She worked out how caterpillars evolved an invulnerability to toxins of particular milkweed plants, and not only did this make the plants their particular field of forage, they absorbed the toxins into their own systems to make them toxic in turn. She tested the toxins on starlings - the birds vomited. He explains how the animal most famous for blending in, the chameleon, actually is more likely to change its colors for the purpose of standing out, like for signaling aggressiveness between males. He writes admiringly of the best trickster in nature, the octopus, that "compendium of every camouflage and mimicry technique known." Ranging into art, military tactics, field biology, evolution, and biochemistry, Forbes has given a unique look into the hidden techniques of natural and artificial camouflage. Natural and artistic and military techniques, he shows, don't follow any particular advancement or grand design they all in their fashion take their chances, make choices, and do experiments.

DAZZLED AND DECEIVED: MIMICRY AND CAMOUFLAGE
PETER FORBES
YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2009
HARDCOVER, $[. ], 304 PAGES, COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS, DIAGRAMS


Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage Paperback – 15 november 2011

""Dazzled and Deceived" is surely destined to become a classic. Peter Forbes has written a compelling and fascinating history of mimicry and camouflage but, much more than that, he persuades us that mimicry is at the heart of the story of evolution. He has found an exciting and novel way of presenting this ever-intractable story, and raises important questions which the theory of evolution has hardly begun to answer."--Christopher Potter, author of "You Are Here: A Portable History of the Universe

"From the great battle of life in nature to the great battlefields of human conflict, mimicry is one of the oldest and most effective tricks in all warfare. In this fascinating synthesis of science, art and history, Peter Forbes chronicles the marvellous and ingenious devices that evolution has produced and humans have designed to deceive foes. "Dazzled and Deceived" is a delightful journey into our growing understanding of how life imitates art." - Sean B. Carroll, author of" Remarkable Creatures" and" The Making of the Fittest

"It is a long time since I read a book that gave me so much enjoyment and told me so much both about the animal world and about human ingenuity. This is a wonderful story, engagingly told." - Michael Ruse, author of "Darwin and its Discontents

""Dazzled and Deceived" tells a fine story. It is a delight . . . I unhesitatingly recommend the book to both scientists and nonscientists."--i>American Scientist
"--Steven Vogel "American Scientist "

"This is a fascinating exploration of the use of visual trickery to disguise the nature of objects both in the living world and in the military. Overall a wonderful topic that really hasn't been given enough coverage, especially given its importance in understanding the mechanisms of evolution better, and an excellent book. Highly recommended." -- Brian Clegg, Popular Science
--Brian Clegg"Popular Science" (01/28/2010)

"As a military historian I have had to ditch many boyhood passions, but fortunately the study of camouflage mixes nature with military history and art, and Peter Forbes does full justice to this fascinating combination in "Dazzled and Deceived ". [He] tells brilliantly this exciting and colourful story with good anecdotes, bizarre characters and intriguing evidence." -- Tim Neward, "Financial Times"--Tim Neward "Financial Times "

"In this excellent and wide-ranging book, Forbes makes the hidden histories of science recognisable"-- Leena Lindstrom, "Nature"--Leena Lindstrom "Nature "


Dazzled and Deceived: mimicry and camouflage, By Peter Forbes

Soldiers used to be conspicuous, then they turned cryptic. Cockades and braid yielded first to greys and drab, then to subtle patterns that wrapped troops in forest or desert cloaks. In nature, the same alternatives are available. Typically, it is the males of a species that opt to be conspicuous and the females that prefer to be cryptic, the males standing to gain more, in reproductive terms, from showing off. They advertise their presence and boast of their fitness to potential mates, as Darwin recognised.

His insight was based on the power of female choice, a notion that in his day ran even more strongly counter to conventional wisdom than that of natural selection itself. Evolutionists who thought of adaptations as aids to survival, rather than reproduction, doubted that nature would favour traits that drew a creature to the attention of its foes.

Abbott Handerson Thayer, an American artist, contended that even the most extravagant natural displays were in fact camouflage. To make his case he painted a peacock embedded in a mosaic of treetop foliage, its blue neck blending in with a patch of sky, and flamingos feeding at sunset. With favourable weather conditions, a flamingo's camouflage would be right twice a day, like a stopped clock.

Thayer's scrutiny of natural patterns did produce insights which later found application in the art of war. He recognised the power of patterning to disrupt the outline of an object, a principle now affirmed in military uniforms around the world. In the First World War, disruptive colour schemes were applied to ships. Whether they interfered with the enemy's aim was doubtful, but "dazzle" patterns proved good for crew morale. Sailors appreciated being aboard works of modern art.

In the Second World War, disruptive patterning was reintroduced to the Royal Navy through the initiative of Peter Scott, later one of Britain's best-known naturalists, who had read Thayer and designed a camouflage scheme for the destroyer on which he was serving. This traffic in ideas, from biology through art to warfare, provides Peter Forbes's Dazzled and Deceived with an intriguing and fluent narrative. It reaches its battlefield climax with the desert battle of El Alamein, where Montgomery's forces orchestrated thousands of dummy and disguised vehicles.

At El Alamein tanks were disguised as lorries in nature weaponless species disguise themselves as dangerous ones. The Victorian naturalist Henry Walter Bates described how harmless butterflies in the Amazon mimicked noxious ones, "a most beautiful proof" of the theory of natural selection.

As Forbes remarks, butterflies and moths are particularly suited to demonstrating the action of evolution because as insects their generations turn over quickly, allowing the effects of selection to appear within researchers' timescales, and because they can be read like open books: "their whole being is displayed on their wings."

Ever since Darwin, the means by which butterflies and moths mimic each other, or their surroundings, have been the focus of controversies. These include theoretical debates which began in the 1920s, about whether evolution proceeds in small steps or dramatic leaps, and recent creationist attempts to discredit the hypothesis that peppered moths grew dark because these variants were better concealed from birds in areas blackened by industrial pollution.

Forbes himself is excited by what the genetics of mimicry can reveal about the relationship between evolution and how individual organisms develop. His fascination with butterflies and moths leaves no room for, among other things, the 400 species of orchids that get themselves pollinated by tricking insects into trying to mate with them. But there is more than enough to read on butterflies' wings.

Forbes's emphasis makes this a distinctively British story, reflecting what the American geneticist Richard Lewontin called "the fascination with birds and gardens, butterflies and snails. characteristic of the pre-war upper middle class from which so many British scientists came."

Forbes takes umbrage at what he sees as "ad hominem prejudice" rather than engaging with Lewontin's implication that the British researchers' science was shaped by their backgrounds. His preference for empirical findings rather than debates about the relationship between science and its social context is itself rather British.

The story has largely run its course. Military camoufleurs may not have much left to learn about concealment from nature, which has little to tell them about how to make objects invisible to radar. Meanwhile, something curious seems to be happening to disruptive patterns.

Security forces are appearing in streets and trouble spots in increasingly vibrant shades of blue, purple or pink. They might conceivably find themselves camouflaged for a moment, like Thayer's flamingos, if they came under fire in a fashionable bar. But the real purpose must simply be to signal that these are soldiers, or as good as, and the colours are to make them stand out.

Russian fighter jets also come in fetching shades of blue, arranged to form intricate synopses of the sky. Some of these schemes have reinvented the dazzle pattern, possibly to dazzle enemy pilots, but more likely to dazzle visitors at air shows. US warplanes remain grey: the Americans don't need paint schemes to highlight that they are in a military league of their own. Lesser forces are rediscovering the attractions of conspicuous display, and following the lead of the fashion designers who first turned camouflage into style.

Marek Kohn's 'A Reason for Everything' is published by Faber & Faber


Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage Hardcover – 2 October 2009

Some animals like to sport bright colors, as if they want to be seen. Others favor drab colors, as if they want to blend in and avoid recognition. There must be advantages to both strategies. Soldiers used to sport bright red clothing in the field, and now tend to go with grey and olive blotches, if they are in forest, and beige spotty patterns if they are on sand. The invisible hand of evolution is at work in the natural world and the visible one of tacticians is at work in the military one, both hands working on the vital competition of appearances. There aren't so many soldiers who are still trying to stand out, but the animals who do so, and plenty of soldiers and sailors and animals who try to blend in, all come under the attention of _Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage_ (Yale University Press) by Peter Forbes. The effort toward understanding military and natural camouflage has been not just separate efforts by naturalists and soldiers, but combined work in the field, joined also by artists and even a magician. Just as you would suspect, there are plenty of surprises in this book, along with a fine introduction to the evolution of mimicry down to the current biochemical understandings.

Forbes spends much of the book on butterflies, like _Leptalis_, which use camouflage in a distinct way. They mimic the bright colors and patterns of another butterfly, the _Heliconidae_. What was the advantage of looking like another butterfly? The imitated _Heliconidae_ sported bright colors as a sort of warning it wanted to be seen and recognized, because it tasted bad and was unpalatable. The more recognizable it was, the more often bird predators would leave it alone. But _Leptalis_, on the other hand, was tasty. It displayed the warning colors and markings of _Heliconidae_, but in the case of _Leptalis_, the warnings were false. False or true, the warnings helped give each butterfly a better chance of surviving and passing on its genes. The false imitation warnings were complicated enough (and occur in other species like snakes, not just insects), but there were true imitation warnings as well. Unrelated species of bad-tasting butterflies (and even moths) shared colors and markings. Their true warnings reinforced each other every time a bird tried to eat one and learned how bad a creature with such appearance tasted. In the 1890s, a cranky New England painter burst into the realm of naturalists who were concerned with camouflage and mimicry. Abbott H. Thayer thought that only an artist could rightly appreciate the profundity of the deceptive pictures made by birds and animals. He obsessively insisted that coloration was for no other purpose than to obscure the animal he didn't accept that colors might be bright for the purpose of warning. He was dogmatic and pugnacious about his discoveries of coloration, and took it upon himself to advise the US Navy about how to disguise its ships during the Spanish-American War. His ideas were ignored, but he did patent the idea of countershading ships, and went on to design disruptive coloration for them. He teamed with the Scots zoologist John Graham Kerr to have British ships painted in "dazzle" patterns, bold darks and lights that obscured the form of the ship and even made it look as if it were on a different heading from its true one. The interplay between military tacticians, naturalists, and artists (which, given the personalities involved, was often angry) gives Forbes a background to tell a broad story about camouflage, including how tanks were hidden in the African campaign of World War Two, and how the flamboyant magician Jasper Maskelyne helped troops and equipment disappear (or was it all hocus-pocus?).

Much of Forbes's book describes the science and scientists working out how chromosomes have activated the chemistry that, for instance, turns inheritance into particular wing colors. There are good profiles of artists and scientists. It is a pleasure, for instance, to read about Miriam Rothschild, who was a member of the famous banking family, and used some of her fortune to equip a laboratory in her home where she investigated how inedible monarch butterflies got their toxins. She worked out how caterpillars evolved an invulnerability to toxins of particular milkweed plants, and not only did this make the plants their particular field of forage, they absorbed the toxins into their own systems to make them toxic in turn. She tested the toxins on starlings - the birds vomited. He explains how the animal most famous for blending in, the chameleon, actually is more likely to change its colors for the purpose of standing out, like for signaling aggressiveness between males. He writes admiringly of the best trickster in nature, the octopus, that "compendium of every camouflage and mimicry technique known." Ranging into art, military tactics, field biology, evolution, and biochemistry, Forbes has given a unique look into the hidden techniques of natural and artificial camouflage. Natural and artistic and military techniques, he shows, don't follow any particular advancement or grand design they all in their fashion take their chances, make choices, and do experiments.

DAZZLED AND DECEIVED: MIMICRY AND CAMOUFLAGE
PETER FORBES
YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2009
HARDCOVER, $[. ], 304 PAGES, COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS, DIAGRAMS


Top reviews from India

Top reviews from other countries

This is a deep book about superficial appearance. About harmless insects dressed up as wasps in black and yellow stripes about why black and yellow stripes are the best way to dress if you really are a venomous wasp, and about how to be invisible or camouflaged from wildlife to battleships.

A central theme is the genetics and evolution of butterfly mimics - some butterflies are genuinely poisonous to birds but others, totally harmless species that live in the same area, mimic these with identical wing colours and pattern. The genetics of a group of these insects has been unravelled and is described.

I found this a bit heavy going as I'm only just updating my 1960s genetics education, but fascinating stuff. Thank goodness we have such books, as the wonder and fascination of the natural world as genetic techniques reveal it provides the mirror image of the natural history programmes on UK television. David Attenborough gives us the pictures and story around the planet and a host of science writers is now showing us the equally beautiful and stunning 'works' under the surface.

I found this book thought-provoking, not just because it ranges from science to art (artists designing paint schemes for ship camouflage) but in its fleshing out the way evolution works. In 1932 W. H. Auden wrote (about the political landscape of the time)

"Some possible dream, long coiled in the ammonite's slumber
Is uncurling . "

Just so the author shows how the genetics of a butterfly mimic hark back to its ancestors as the old gene sequences 'uncurl'. Thought-provoking stuff.

I wish the illustrations in the book were more numerous and placed in the text instead of the old-fashioned block of plates centrally. That all the pictures of butterflies had been put together with clear labels which would have helped me with the hard bits. And I got a bit impatient with the chapters on the navy and wanted to get back to wild life, but that's just me.

Overall I would highly recommend it to anyone who already has a smattering of the new evo devo genetics.


More about this title

"Forbes sees with lovely clarity that nature, like art, is a bricoleur."-Veronica Horwell, The Guardian

"An intriguing and fluent narrative. Forbes's emphasis makes this a distinctively British story." -Marek Kohn, The Independent

"He tells brilliantly this exciting and colourful story with good anecdotes, bizarre characters and intriguing evidence." -Tim Neward, Financial Times

"A remarkable book."—Judith Rice, The Guardian

"An enthusiastic study."—The Sunday Telegraph

"In this excellent and wide-ranging book, Forbes makes the hidden histories of science recognisable." -Leena Lindstrom, Nature

"This is a book about scientific concepts it’s a book about art. an exciting read because Forbes does what all good storytellers do – he reveals and conceals in equal measure."—Michael Rosen, The Good Book Guide


Watch the video: 22 HISTORICAL PHOTOGRAPHS OF UNBELIEVABLY DAZZLE CAMOUFLAGE SHIPS


Comments:

  1. Darel

    What came into your head?

  2. Abdiraxman

    And they will cure you (c) Soviet imperishable

  3. Taugrel

    There is something in this. I see, thank you for the information.

  4. Brannon

    Granted, that's a funny phrase

  5. Vizil

    There is nothing to tell - keep silent not to litter a theme.



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