break up the shape


Senior Member
It’s a sentence from a documentary about sea creatures, this sentence is about carpet shark:

Ornately patterned, the frilly bearded appendages around their mouths have a dual role: to break up the shape of the resting shark, and also to be used as sensors when hunting.

What does the phrase in bold mean? Normally I would think it’s something like ‘’to make the shape more conspicuous’’, but in this context it doesn’t make much sense, because that wouldn’t be too useful for the shark, as the most animals try to use camouflage and be less visible, either for protection from predators or for hiding themselves from potential victims! Or am I missing something?

Can anyone help?
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    It means hiding the shape, or making it less like the shape. Most sharks are very obviously shark-shaped, with smooth lines, and a good rule for anything in the sea is if you see something shark-shaped, run away. This shark's frills 'break' that obvious shape- it no longer has that shape, but perhaps looks like a very large sea anemone or piece of seaweed.


    Senior Member
    English but my first language was German
    Breaking up the shape (i.e. distracting the eye from the basic shape by teasing it with irrelevant lines and edges) is the way to camouflage something.
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