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Tuesday
Nov072017

5 Animals with Awesome  Camouflages

Whilst many animals at the top of the food chain do not need elaborate camouflage to go about their daily lives, for lots of other animals it is an essential defence mechanism in order to hide from predators. Here we explore a unique selection of animals and their unbelievable camouflages.

Leafy Sea Dragon

wikimedia | --XocolatlThere aren’t many animals that are able to disguise themselves quite as well as the Leafy Sea Dragon. Found on the southern and western coasts of Australia, the sea animal has many similarities to the seahorse, such as the male of the species caring for the eggs. This mini monster feeds on plankton and mini crustacean, and grows to at least 18 inches long! The leaf-like protrusions that grow on the sea dragon are actually lobes of skin, and allow the sea creature to blend in perfectly with its surroundings, giving the appearance of seaweed – these animals are almost impossible to see when surrounded by similar looking plant life.

Leaf Tailed Gecko

Flickr | Michael SaleThe Uroplatus Phantastiscus, more commonly known as the satanic leaf tailed gecko, is endemic to Madagascar, meaning it isn’t found in the wild anywhere else in the world. It is a true master of disguise, and its body perfectly mimics that of a dead leaf – parts of the body and the tail even look like it has been nibbled at by insects or rotted by decay! The leaf-tailed gecko is an expert at avoiding predators, not only because of their incredible camouflaging techniques, but many behavioural attributes as well; they can flatten their body to reduce their shadow, and they also open their jaws wide revealing their bright, red mouth. The existence of this animal is under threat, all due to destruction, deforestation and collection for the pet trade. Protected areas in Madagascar are essential to continue conservation efforts, ensuring the protecting of the leaf tailed gecko and many other species. Frontier currently runs projects in Madagascar; if you would like to get involved, check the projects out here.

Stonefish

Flickr | Steve ChildsThis well-disguised fish can be impossible to spot and blend in perfectly with their surroundings making it really difficult for their prey, predators and even scuba divers to see them at all! The stonefish reaches an average length of 30 to 40 centimetres and up to 2kg in weight, meaning it may not be the biggest fish in the ocean, it is however, the most dangerous. The stonefish has 13 spines, and in each one there is a venomous sac which can cause excruciating pain, and even death! Their immaculate disguise means they are able to lie completely still on the sea floor, going unnoticed for hours on end, and whilst it offers the fish extra protection, its primary purpose is to enable them to ambush their prey. They are quite lazy though, really; they simply wait for dinner to come to them, with their camouflage tricking their prey into coming within chomping distance – dinner, is served!

Leaf-Mimic Katydids

wikimedia | Geoff GalliceSimilar to the impressive camouflaging skill of the leaf-tailed gecko, the leaf-mimic katydids are abundant in humid tropical areas, and are part of a group of insects known as Pterochrozini, which mimic leaves. Although the katydid pictured here is mimicking a green leaf, the insects have also mastered mimicking brown, decaying, chewed leaves – some of them even have “holes” in, which are areas with a translucent membrane window. The entire species is even a form of camouflage – no two individuals are alike, and in fact the species varies so widely that nearly 22% of the species was “discovered” separately under different names, until it was realised that they were actually all leaf-mimic katydids! Now that really is unbe-leaf-able…

Chameleon

pixabay | cyberangel70Whilst the ultimate king of animal kingdom camouflage, the chameleon, probably could have gone unmentioned, it seemed unnatural not to… The chameleon has the ability to change colour in a fraction of a second, and it is surely the closest thing to magic we have in nature. Whilst scientists are at agreement as to how the chameleons change colour, there is still dispute as to why. To many people’s disbelief, it is likely that chameleons are more interested in changing colour as a way of communicating their state of mind to other chameleons, than for hiding. Furthermore, in 2008 a study from the University of Melbourne even suggests that chameleons are capable of customising his colour palette depending on the visual capabilities of different predators – talk about an intense game of hide and seek!

The variety and alternativeness in the animal kingdom is jaw-dropping… I think we’ll know where to look next time we need a bit of costume inspiration, don’t you? However, many of these rare and beautiful creature’s habitats are under threats from deforestation, climate change and poaching; Frontier has hundreds of projects that focus on conservation and environmental aid, check them out here.

By Fran Collis - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs conservationdevelopmentteaching and adventure travel projects in over 50 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!

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