The dictum of evolution has primarily pertained to the ‘survival of the fittest’. But when it comes to vast and variegated scope of nature, even deception can keep you alive. At least that is what the tantalizing ambit of animal camouflage has demonstrated over hundreds of millenniums. So, without further ado, let us take a gander at fourteen such amazing scenarios of animal camouflage that will seriously boggle your mind.
1) Baron Caterpillar –
Indigenous to India and Southeast Asia, the Baron Caterpillar (Euthalia aconthea) grows into a medium-sized nymphalid butterfly. But the astonishing example of animal camouflage occurs in its larval stage when they feed mainly on trees like mango and cashew nut. In fact, during their last stages of growth, the larvae can extend till a length of 45 mm, while also displaying elongated spikes. The combination of the caterpillar’s color and these spikes allow the larva to blend in with the natural hue of the leaves – thus contributing to a cryptic case of camouflage.
2) Bat Faced Toad –
The Bat Faced Toad (Bufo typhonius) is widespread in the Amazonian basin, and generally displays a roughened skin on the dorsum. The other interesting feature of this toad (that generally ranges from 40 mm – 76 mm in length) is its bold cream mid-dorsal stripe that is only found in some types. In any case, the roughened skin along with the diagonal row of conical tubercles makes up for nigh perfect scenario of animal camouflage – as is evident from the above photograph taken in Amacayacu National Park in Colombia.
3) Baweng Satanic Leaf Gecko –
The Baweng Satanic Leaf Gecko (Uroplatus phantasticus), is a species of gecko endemic to the island of Madagascar. Mostly found in the northern and central tropical forests of the African island, these tiny critter of the Gecko family generally goes after its prey in the night. By prey, we of course mean smaller insects; but much of their diet still remains a mystery to most herpetologists. However, the most characteristic feature of this species is its expertise in animal camouflage – which is achieved by a “light line along the back together with leaf-vein-like lines and skin structures on the body [that] can complete the perfect imitation of a dead leaf”. (as said by herpetologist Frank Glaw of the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology).
4) Ghost Mantis –
The Ghost Mantis (Phyllocrania paradoxa) is another incredible species that showcases its dried-up leaf-like body to seamlessly blend into its native environment. Mostly indigenous to Africa, this species tends to be smaller than its other preying mantis brethren, while also being sexually dimorphic (where females are larger than males). But as we mentioned before, the most striking aspect of the Ghost Mantis is its penchant for animal camouflage with the specific arrangement of its elongated head, a flattened prothorax, leaf-like projections from the limbs, and a ‘creased’ forewing (with actual shadings of pigments).
5) Great Potoo –
Largest member of the order Caprimulgiformes (which includes nightjars and allies), the Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis) is found in tropical areas of the Americas, ranging Mexico to Brazil. Mostly residing in dense lowlands and forest edges, the bird makes use of its bigger size to advantage by acting as a nocturnal predator that hunts large beetles, katydids and even bats. As for the scope of animal camouflage, Great Potoo’s plumage is suited to blending in with the tree stumps – thus making it case of camouflage by the setting (as opposed to coloration).
6) Indonesian Mimic Octopus –
One of the most incredible examples of animal camouflage, the Mimic Octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) was only recently discovered in 1998, off the coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia. The question naturally arises – why incredible? Well that is because this small Indo-Pacific species of octopus is capable of mimicking at least 15 types of other local species and/or predators. This fascinating range of replication is possible due to the incorporation of pigment sacs known as chromatophores, along with the creature’s ability to morph into various shapes. Unsurprisingly, the Mimic Octopus is only known marine organism that can ‘impersonate’ such a wide variety of animals, including poisonous sea-snakes, jelly fishes and even flat fishes.
7) Katydid –
Belonging to the Tettigoniidae family of crickets, the katydids (also known as bush crickets) are primarily nocturnal in nature, and can range in size from as small as 5 mm to as large as 130 mm. And pertinent to the list here, the katydids are also known for their exhibition of mimicry and animal camouflage, especially when they are resting. So when resting during the day, the insects adopt what is known as a diurnal roosting posture that confuses its enemies. The lurking predators are thus fooled into believing that the katydid is either dead or it just a small leaf on a twig. Furthermore, these crickets can also baffle the predators by showcasing their bright spots (on the wings) that look like staring eyes.