The animal kingdom is a dangerous place, which has spawned a few of the greatest camouflage experts in the planet. Survival of the fittest is the order of the day. Some animals are ill equipped for fight or flight. These animals have evolved some very interesting ways to protect themselves. It is said the best defense is to not be there or at least seem as if you are not. Camouflage is one of mother natures’ oldest forms of protection from detection for her children. Those that are too small have developed these techniques that are now a part of their species DNA. Now you will get the opportunity to see the originators of camouflage up close. Here are the top ten animals that use camouflage as a defensive mechanism to remain virtually unseen by predators and prey alike.
The greatest quick-change artist in the animal kingdom is undoubtedly the Chameleon at times of extreme duress or imminent danger this animal drops its normal light khaki appearance for something that will keep it unseen by predators. The Chameleon can blend into almost any background by mimicking the coloration of the area. In what has to be the most elaborate display of changing pigmentation the chameleon is the greatest disguise artist found in nature. These animals are found mostly in the Middle East, Europe and Africa and their ability to be practically invisible is simply amazing.
2. The Leopard
The big cats are known for lazing about on tree branches whiling the day away. The spots are perfect for remaining unseen in the glaring sun dappled deserts of the African plain. The black allows them to blend in perfectly with the nighttime shadows to aid in surprising prey. This camouflage makes them equally devastating predators day or night. They can remain motionless and be rendered invisible to the eyes of other animals.
3. The Polar Bear
With only the tips of their noses and the pads of their paws showing any other color but white these denizens of the Arctic are perfectly camouflaged in the vast snowy expanse of the Arctic Circle.
The only predators that a full-grown polar bear has are other bears and mankind. They can stand still in the snow and not be easily distinguished from their surroundings. With global warming they are loosing much of their habitat as it melts back into the sea. Polar bears are born on land but spend a lot of their lives at sea or on sea ice so they can hunt seals. The white coat allows the great size of the bear to go unseen against the snow and ice on which it lives, breeds and hunts. This is one of the greatest forms of camouflage for hunting the seals, because it helps the bear to remain unseen by the seals as they come up from the water. Along with is white coat it has adapted other features that allow it to live comfortable in its extreme environment. The US Department of the Interior formally put these beautiful creatures on the threatened species list in 2008.
4. The Snapping Turtle
This is just one of many of this species whose very design is an apt form of camouflage.
When sitting still with appendages withdrawn they are hard to tell from them from rocks. They use this not just for defense but also as a method of ensnaring prey
This is a large and aggressive turtle. Found only in North America it spends most of its time submerged in the beds of creeks and streams. The camouflage is so good that they are not easily discerned from the rocks surrounding them. This only makes them dangerous. Due to their aggressive natures anyone or anything that ventures too close gets snapped. The adults have jaws such strong jaws that they have been known to shatter bones.
5. Shark (Ornate Wobbegongs)
This shark can be found off the coast of New Guinea and Australia. That is if you can spot him. Unless you know specifically what you are looking for chances are you still will not. In what has to be one of the most impressive acts of camouflage this Shark can go unseen by man. It mottled coloring allows it to look like just another piece of coral on the sea bottom.
Their bodies flatten perfectly to the sea floor and their coloring along with the jagged lines of their skin allow them to blend right in. They literally become a part of the ocean floor. Add to that the seaweed like hairs underneath the mouth and you have a trap that is almost indiscernible.
The prey will not know what hit them as this guy moves and strikes swiftly.
6. The Grasshopper
This animal is technically an insect but is worthy of the title, as its camouflage is also one of the greatest. Their coloring varies according to where you find them. If the area is lush then you will find them to be a vibrant green so as to blend in with the foliage. They blend in perfectly with the new grasses and plants of the spring since this is when they emerge from their eggs. In dry dusty arid areas they look more like the earth and can blend in to the sand and dusty tree bark. If they do not move it is almost impossible to tell that they are there.
Because it has a lot of relatives that are so similar to it, the grasshopper is often referred to as “the short horned grasshopper” this is for its short antennae relative to its body size. Grasshoppers prefer a diet that includes grasses, cereal grain crops and leaves. All total there are about 8,000 species of grasshopper. They lay heir eggs mostly underground but will use tree roots and piles of manure in a pinch. They are a much-valued source of fats and proteins in the diets of some countries.
7. The Gaboon Viper
This particular snake is one of the deadliest, most venomous reptiles on the planet. This snake isn’t concerned with predators its camouflage is to hide from its prey. It is a master at blending into the carpet on the rainforest floor in Africa. From there it does a sneak attack on any animal or person passing within its striking range. This animal has an unforgiving bite as its venom kills. This is the largest member of the viper family it also holds the distinction of having the longest fangs of any member of this species. The way to tell the males from the females is tail length relative to body length, it is a whooping 12% in miles while only 6% in the females. It takes by some estimates 14mg of venom to kill an average sized person. The deaths are rare as these guy mainly hangout in the rain forests. They are a lazy bunch and hiss very loudly when approached. Most bites occur because someone steps on them as they are slow to move. Since this is bound to happen in the forest away from medicine and sometimes while a person is alone the death will be slow and agonizing. The camouflage is so good that it is hard to tell where the hiss is coming from.
One of the animals that are least expected to be on top ten lists is the butterfly. These are natures most fragile of beings. Usually easy pickings for any bird passing by or frog or lizard, you get the picture. Hailing from South East Asia and parts of Africa we have the dead leaf butterfly that has adapted and evolved into a most cunning species. It looks so remarkably like the leaves it surrounds itself with that it goes unnoticed by most of its natural predators.
As you can see in this photo it looks remarkably like a dead plant leaf. Since a dead anything is most unappetizing this critter is safe for the most part. The most amazing thing is that with its wings folded it is invisible in among the leaves on any plants.
9. The Thorny Devil
Found mainly in the Australian outback these little beauties belong to the dragon lizard family. It is one of the most unusual looking animals ever recorded. It is distantly related to the American horned lizard of the desserts of Nevada and Arizona. They each have the horned head and survive mainly on a diet of ants and other small insects.
The main difference is that the Australian horned lizard has thorny spines over 90% of its structure. As with any true camouflage artist this little fellow changes color when it feels threatened. It also uses its ability to stand very still on three legs to blend in better with its surroundings as a way to throw off predators. At times it is indistinguishable from the rocks and sand of it natural habitat. This habitat that is disappearing due to urban sprawl is the only place it has been known to thrive. With the number of natural predators that it has and loss of habitat we may soon see this animal go the way of the infamous Do-Do Bird.
This is the horned lizard and as you can see they are not quite as thorny as their distant cousins it has one of its greatest attributes the ability to blend in with its territory.
10. The Weedy Sea Dragon
The Weedy Sea Dragon is a close relative of the seahorse and one of the greatest camouflage experts in the sea. Found in the waters around the Australian coast they are very rarely seen. They live in water that is 3-50 meters deep and in thick seaweed beds. They are the only members of the genus phyllopteryx.
The camouflage helps it to go unnoticed as it travels through it home of seaweed. This is where it lives, breeds and dies. As with other members of the seahorse family the males are the ones to give birth the offspring are fully capable of survival from birth. They eat zooplankton and small crustaceans like krill. The Weedy Sea Dragon has the enviable distinction of being the aquatic emblem of Victoria a coastal state in Australia.