Animal markings

Animal markings

Animals exhibit a variety of bodily colorations and patterns or markings, which have evolved for a number of reasons. Some are useful as camouflage. Both the spots on a lion cub and the stripes on a tiger serve to break up the visible outline of the animal in long grass. Other types of markings, particularly white coloring on the face or feet, commonly seen in domesticated animals, such as dogs, cats, and horses, are unique identifiers with no known biological purpose.

Other markings are meant to be seen, serving as visual warnings that the bearer may be dangerous in some otherwise non-obvious way. The distinctive black-and-white coat of a skunk is a potent reminder of its malodorous scent-spraying capabilities. The highly venomous coral snake displays conspicuous red, yellow, and black bands, alerting potential foes that an encounter may be life-threatening. The similarly-patterned, non-venomous scarlet kingsnake sports red, black, and yellow bands, causing most animals to maintain a respectful distance from this "sheep in wolf's clothing." The striking pattern symbolizes the animals ability to survive despite being seen by potential predators. Any animal that develops to disregard its markings, while probably killing the target in the short term, will also take heavy damage itself and ultimately be at an evolutionary disadvantage. This will only work during a period in which copy-cat behavior hasn't yet taken overhand. As soon as that boundary is breached, predators will grow to disregard the pattern, and new patterns may emerge.

Other markings, such as the points of the Siamese cat, are the result of selective breeding for aesthetically pleasing characteristics.

ee also

*Pattern formation, Morphogenesis

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