A color may serve its bearer well.
With a pattern, there’s a longer story to tell
Counter shaded is dark on top, under with a lighter aspect.
To make fish, birds and many others harder to detect:
From above, black back against ocean’s depths fades from sight;
From below, the white belly better matches the sky’s light.
Add shapes, patches, lines and irregularity
To break up contours and add uncertainty.
Killer whales (Orcas), pandas and zebras
Take advantage of these two ideas.


The upper (back) side of killer whales (Orcas) is black, but the undersurface is almost white.  This arrangement where the upper side of an animal is darker than the lower side is sufficiently common to have its own name: counter-coloration.  This is especially common among animals that live in water. The benefit of this arrangement is that  the black upper side makes it harder to be seen from above, and the light underside, when viewed from below is harder to see because the color of the belly is more closely matched to the sky above.  If you flick through the pages of this book, you can find some more examples. It is a simple form of camouflage.


The contrasting black and white can be used to confuse.  The black and white stripes of a single zebra makes it stand out from brown scrubland. But, in a herd of many animals, the vertical lines make it harder to for a predator to distinguish and select an individual to catch. The irregular marks on the panda, and indeed on the killer whale, also break up the outline and make it harder for an observer to know what they are looking at. 

A recent alternative idea as to the benefits of stripes of zebras is that they confuse blood-sucking flies.

This dalmation dog provides a good example of black and white as effective camouflage. 

If you can make more black and white suggestions, or have other (relevant) thoughts,  please let us know below.

Nature Reader colors web Black and White

Leave a Reply