Camouflage and the art of animal disappearance

The ability to use camouflage is a common asset for predator and prey. The ability to blend into the surrounding with its colours is a common form of camouflage called crypsis.

Some animals and insects use camouflage by disguising itself to look like something else. A camouflage method called mimesis.

Here are a few creatures whose camouflage techniques would get past most predators or prey.

Baron caterpillar

The Baron Butterfly is a territorial butterfly native to India and Southeast Asia. The larvae have big appetites for mango leaves so the baron needs to use its camouflage ability to its fullest.

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Euthalia aconthea caterpillar on leaf. Photo credit: School of Ecology and Conservation, University of Agricultural Sciences Bangalore (CC BY 2.5)
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Photo by Wohin Auswandern (CC BY 2.0)

 

 

Hooded grasshopper

The hooded grasshopper survives by imitating a leaf. The front portion of its thorax expands to a hood-like structure creating the illusion for the camouflage.

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Hooded Grasshopper (Teratodes monticollis) at Pocharam Lake, Andhra Pradesh, India. Photo by J M Garg (CC BY 3.0).

 

 

Dead leaf butterfly

Looking like a dead leaf is the camouflage technique used by the Dead leaf butterfly. It’s another Asian insect. Note the tip of the rear wings looking like the stem of the leaf. The Dead leaf butterfly is also called Kallima.

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Kallima inachus, the Dead or Indian leaf butterfly displays the leaf-like appearance of the underside of the wing. Photo by Noumenon (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Frogs

Frogs and toads used the crypsis method of camouflage to blend into the surroundings. This is a tough one to find so if you’re here on an animal “treasure hunt”, don’t read the caption first. If you still can’t see it, scroll to the bottom of the page.

 

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The frog is to the left of the top end of the vertical stick. It is about the same size as the end of the stick.
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Three frogs Photo credit: Imgur

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Scops Owl

Like most owls, the scops owl is great at camouflage simply by being the right colour and knowing where to perch. The fact that it’s a small owl also helps.

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A well-camouflaged African scops owl, Otus senegalensis. Photo by Alastair Rae (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

 

Dead leaf mantis

Similar to the Dead leaf butterfly, this mantis has “dead leaf” features it uses for camouflage. If alarmed it lies motionless on the rainforest floor, disappearing among the real dead leaves. It eats other animals up to the size of small lizards. The Dead leaf mantis is from the island of Madagascar, Africa.

 

**Dead Leaf Mantis:

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Dead leaf mantis

 

 

Gray’s leaf insect

Here is another insect that mimics a leaf. Like most leaf insects, Gray’s has an extremely flattened, irregular shaped body, wings and legs. It is a native of West Malaysia but it is found widespread in Southeast Asia, in Borneo, China, India, Java, Singapore, and Sumatra. It is also found in Madagascar, Mauritius, and the Seychelles.

Leaf insect
Leaf insect

 

 

Flying Dragon

The Draco genus of lizards is often called flying dragons because of their ability to glide. The ribs and their connecting membrane can be extended to create a kind of wing. The hind limbs are flattened and wing-like in cross-section, and a small set of flaps on the neck serve as horizontal stabilizers.

If “flying” wasn’t enough the flying dragon also has an amazing talent for camouflage.

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The very well-camouflaged Draco indochinensis. Photo by Yathin S Krishnappa (CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

 

Mossy Tail Gecko

The mossy tail gecko is a protected species from Madagascar. It has the ability to change colour. This gecko also has flaps of skin, running the length of its body, head and limbs, known as the dermal flap, which it can lay against the tree during the day, scattering shadows, and making its outline practically invisible.

With this amazing camouflage technique, why is it a threatened species? Habitat destruction and deforestation in Madagascar is the primary threat to this animal’s future as well as collection for the pet trade.

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A pre-adult specimen of gecko Uroplatus sameiti is cryptic, with camouflage methods including mimicking the underlying branch surface, colour matching, disruptive coloration, body flattening and fringing to conceal the shadow, and keeping still.
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Camouflaged on a branch. Photo by Jialiang Gao (GFDL)

 

 

Children’s stick insect

With the eucalyptus as its habitat, this Australian stick insect also has the camouflage ability to look like a leaf. This insect is generally about 100 millimetres long. But why do they call it the children’s stick insect?

It’s because they love having kids. The male of the species will mate more than once in its lifetime and the female will lay eggs all through its adult life. Each batch of eggs will hatch into an army of baby stick insects.

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Chidren’s stick Insect: Tropidoderus childrenii in my garden demonstrating its prodigious ability to camouflage amongst the eucalypt leaves. Photo by David Midgley (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

 

Peppered moth caterpillar

The peppered moth is easy prey for bats when they are in flight. The smart female therefore only flies on the first night but the males fly every night in search of a female. After their one and only flight, the females release pheromones to attract the males.

The caterpillars would be easy prey too if it was not for use disguise as their camouflage.

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Biston betularia caterpillars on birch (left) and willow (right), demonstrating twig mimicry and effective counter shading. Photo credit: Noor MAF, Parnell RS, Grant BS (CC BY 2.5)

 

 

Here’s a few more creatures in camouflage

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A caterpillar on a teak tree branch (CC BY-SA 3.0)
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Wrap-around spider Dolophones mimicking a stick. Photo by Justin Sahl (CC BY-SA 4.0)
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Flower insect. Photo credit: Imgur
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Snow leopard. Photo credit: Imgur
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Seahorse. Photo credit: Imgur
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Sniper: The scariest of creatures in camouflage
Camouflage
There he is!


 

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