Flatfish Camouflage Experiments (1911)

This great series of photographs comes from a 1911 paper in the Journal of Experimental Zoology by American ichthyologist and zoologist Francis Bertody Sumner. The images were captured a year earlier at the Naples Zoological Station in Italy and back home at the U.S. fisheries Laboratory at Woods Hole, in a series of experiments in which Sumner puts a various types of flounder through their paces as regards camouflage ability. Placing them against bold and striking patterns (more than they'd experience in nature), Sumner photographed them at various states of adapting to their new backgrounds — and concluded that the fish with the most favourable adaptive qualities was a small species of flounder named Rhomboidichthys podas. Although the fact that the photographs are in black and white (a limitation of the time) might slightly impinge on their scientific usefulness, it does somewhat enhance their aesthetic qualities, at times lending them an almost pop art air.

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