Counting down from 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… ready or not, here we come! Playing hide and seek is a delightful childhood activity. However, for animals in the wild, hide and seek is more than just a game. For many, it is a matter of survival!
If you have ever studied the food chain in nature, you are aware that certain animals prey on others. The animals that hunt are known as predators, while the animals they hunt are referred to as prey.
Prey animals often employ camouflage as a means to hide from predators. Camouflage is a method of concealment that allows an animal to blend in with its surroundings or go unnoticed by predators. Predators also occasionally use camouflage to prevent detection by their prey.
There are four primary ways in which animals camouflage themselves. First, some animals conceal themselves by staying against a background that matches their color.
This simple method is known as concealing coloration. For instance, the snowy owl’s white coloring helps it blend in with its snowy habitat.
Of course, as seasons change, some animals discover that their winter coloring no longer provides effective concealment in warmer weather.
As a result, some animals change their coloration throughout the year to adapt to the changing seasons. Environmental cues, such as temperature or the amount of daylight, may trigger these changes. One example is the arctic fox, which is white during winter and grayish-brown during summer.
Other animals possess unique markings, such as spots, stripes, and patterns, which might seem like they would make them stand out too much. However, these special markings, referred to as disruptive coloration, actually help break up their outline, preventing them from standing out.
For example, a zebra’s stripes help it blend in. While we can clearly see zebras, colorblind lions often perceive their stripes as blending in with tall grass.
Some exceptionally clever animals blend in with their environment by resembling common objects. This method is known as disguise.
For instance, the walking stick is an insect that looks so much like a branch that it can be incredibly difficult to spot in the wild!
The final method of camouflage employed by animals is mimicry. Animals that use mimicry protect themselves by resembling other dangerous, poisonous, or unappetizing animals.
For example, the Viceroy butterfly mimics the appearance of the poisonous Monarch butterfly to avoid predators.
No discussion of camouflage would be complete without mentioning the ultimate color-changer, the chameleon. Chameleons are renowned for their ability to change the color of their skin.
However, what many people do not realize is that chameleons tend to change their skin color in response to their mood, rather than to blend in with new or different surroundings!
Give It a Try
We hope this Wonder of the Day has opened your eyes to the amazing world of camouflage! Ask a friend or family member to join you in exploring the following activities:
Test Your Skills at Spotting Camouflaged Animals
Think you have a keen eye for spotting animals that blend into their surroundings? Challenge yourself with these photos of animals using natural camouflage. See if you can locate all of them!
- Egyptian Nightjar
- Tawny Frogmouth
- Owl Butterfly
Imagine if you needed to camouflage yourself in the wild or if you were working as a spy. How would you blend in if you were in a forest? What about in a city? If you were in the snow, what color would you wear to hide? Consider the different camouflage outfits worn by military personnel in desert environments. Get creative and think of ways you could disguise yourself. If you have the necessary clothing or items, give it a try!
Put yourself in the shoes of a zebra and write a story from their perspective. Do you appreciate your stripes? Do they help you stand out or do they provide protection by helping you blend in? Let your imagination run wild and come up with an entertaining story to share with a friend or family member.