What is the purpose of the color

Federal Agency for Nature Conservation BfN

In nature, nobody dresses up for fun. The bright colors always have a purpose: They can be camouflage or warning, they serve to preserve the species, to obtain food, to defend or to protect. Most of the time the colors serve different purposes at the same time.

Warning colors

Bright colors are often warning colors. With this, an animal indicates that it poses a danger. Black and yellow wasps sting, the orange and black caterpillars of the swallowtail are poisonous and the red and black fire bugs simply don't taste good. Black and yellow or black and red are typical warning colors for insects. The predators know: watch out, danger lurks here - without the prey really having to defend itself. Thanks to its warning color alone, poisonous or stinging insects are less likely to be eaten.

Camouflage colors

Warning colors can also be camouflage colors. As the? - If harmless animals wear the same colors as dangerous animals, then they also scare off their predators. You know that from hover flies, which are just as black and yellow striped as wasps, although they are completely harmless. Such a similarity between defenseless and defenseless species is called "mimicry".

Read more about mimicry here.

Other camouflage colors such as brown or green ensure that the animals merge with their surroundings and are therefore difficult to spot for both their enemies and their prey. Grasshoppers, grasshoppers or crickets, for example, come in many shades of brown and green. If they sit motionless on a blade of grass, they can hardly be seen.

Looking for a partner

Birds are masters of the play of colors: In many bird species, the males even throw themselves into shells during the mating season. With a particularly colorful plumage, the "splendid dress", they advertise the females. This is the case with mallards, for example. After mating, the male ducks lose their brightly colored feathers. The females, on the other hand, wear an inconspicuous brown all year round. So they are well camouflaged during the brood and when rearing the chicks.