Miscellany | Published:


    Naturevolume 100pages408412 (1918) | Download Citation



    IN various parts of the country camouflaged houses and hangars and vessels are to be seen by those who have eyes to see, and it was stated officially on January 14 that the: Admiralty (had tested many methods of disguising mercantile shipping. One of these methods is to paint the ship with various quaint combinations of different colours. But this does not appear to have proved much of a success, though we know in Nature of conspicuously patterned creatures, such as the hoopoe, which are, in certain situations and poses, endowed with what amounts to a garment of invisibility. Another method, well illustrated by a model in the British Museum (Natural History), depends on what is sometimes called Thayer's law, the announcement of which was first made in NATURE of April 24, 1902, by Prof. E. B. Poulton. A further illustrated description of the principle was given in an article in our issue of October 27, 1910. Mr. Abbott H. Thayer, an American artist, was one of the first to recognise that a high degree of invisibility is conferred on certain birds by the simple adaptation of being dark above and whitish below. He took two wooden decoy ducks, and placed them against a sandbank. One was coloured like the sand, or coated with sand; the other was coloured on its upper parts darker than the surrounding sand, and graded below to pure white. At a short distance the first was still clearly visible, but the second was quite lost against its background. The first bird was revealed by the dark shadow below it; the second was made invisible because the light lower parts were neutralised by the shadow, while the dark upper parts were toned down by the strong direct light. The result is technically described as obliteration by counter-shading. Some modification of this experiment has been tried on ships by differential painting, but this device has not proved so successful as had been hoped by those who knew how obliterative it was in some birds and fishes. On some other quite different line, it is said, the Admiralty has discovered a system of camouflage which will go far to baffle the eyes of submarines.

    Access optionsAccess options

    Rent or Buy article

    Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


    All prices are NET prices.

    About this article

    Publication history

    Issue Date




    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.