Camouflage is a set of methods of concealment that allows otherwise visible animals, military vehicles, or other objects to remain unnoticed by blending with their environment or by resembling something else. Examples include a leopard's spotted coat, the battledress of a modern soldier and a leaf-mimic butterfly. Camouflage is a form of visual deception; the term probably comes from camouflet, a French term meaning smoke blown in someone's face as a practical joke.
Camouflage can be achieved in what may seem opposite ways. Mimesis means being seen, but resembling something else, whereas crypsis means being hidden. But in both cases, camouflage is achieved by not being noticed. A third approach, dazzle, means confusing the predator or enemy by moving a conspicuous pattern. The prey or target is visible but hard to hit.
Interest in camouflage was spurred by the increasing range and accuracy of firearms in the 19th century. In particular the replacement of the inaccurate musket with the rifle made personal concealment in battle into a survival skill. In the 20th century, Military camouflage developed rapidly, especially during the First World War. On land, artists such as Andre Mare designed camouflage schemes and observation posts disguised as trees. At sea, warships and troop carriers were painted in dazzle patterns that were highly visible, but designed to confuse enemy gunners as to the target's speed, range, and heading. In the Second World War, zoologists such as Hugh Cott designed camouflage schemes to protect large targets such as airfields and gun batteries from detection from the air, using techniques from nature such as countershading.
According to Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection, characteristics such as camouflage that help an animal to survive will tend to evolve in any population. Camouflage is not the only form of animal coloration that helps animals to survive or creates striking natural patterns. Other adaptations include warning coloration, non-concealing forms of mimicry (as when a harmless hoverfly resembles a stinging wasp), the use of bright colours in sexual selection, and the use of pigment in the skin to protect against sunburn.