Zoology

Animal Camouflage



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Throughout the diverse food web of life, animals and insects can be predator or prey. Because of this uncertain life, each species have developed adaptations to survive. Whether they are hunting or being hunted, the use of unique characteristics will aid in hiding them from other animals or insects.

Using a form of camouflage is a technique that many small species have evolved to avoid the potential predator. Being able to blend in to your environment, or even taking on the look of a part of its realized niche in the environment will hide most species right out in the open. A chameleon, octopus, cuttlefish, or squid is very adept at blending into their environment. Chromatophores located along the inside of their skin allow these creatures to change their coloring to blend in to the environment they are in. A chameleon will take on the look of leaves or bark of a tree and be able to sit in the open, enjoying the sunshine. Marine species, like the cephalopods listed above can change their coloring very quickly to look like vegetation or the ocean floor. Not only are these animals hiding from predators, but they are able to hunt unsuspecting prey that crosses their paths. If the species can resemble a part of their environment, like a walking stick or a katydid (resembles leaves), they will confuse a predator also.

Cryptic coloration by the use of countershading is an adaptation that many species use to hide within their environment. Frogs use a color pattern of their environment to hide their eggs from predators. The top of the egg will be dark while the underside will be light. This will keep a predator from seeing the egg from above the water or below. A more dangerous predator, a shark uses this to camouflage themselves. From above, the top of the shark will blend in with the deeper water, but from underneath it will appear lighter like the surface waters. When another fish or mammal realizes the shark is close to them, it is already too late.

Coloration patterns are also used to lure in a potential prey or divert a predator. Some species of insects have a camouflage that will distract a predator from the hunt. Bright flashes created from hidden parts of their skin can divert a predator from eating them, or confuse them long enough for the insect to escape. This is also used by animals to catch the attention of a predator away from their young or a nest. Mussels, like the Higgins eye pearly mussel can lure in a pike with the shiny, slivery sac filled with its glocidia (offspring). When the unsuspecting pike is drawn to the sac, the mussel will open the sac and the glocidia will rush into the pikes face. After flowing through the gills, the glocidia will use dracula like teeth to attach themselves to the outer skin of the pike and be carried upstream.

Another form of camouflage is aposematic coloration. This is a warning system to all species. When an animal or insect has yellow or red coloring, this is like a flag waving to alert the predator to danger. Animals, insects or reptiles bearing these colors or certain markings are often poisonous to whatever eats them or attempts to. This has been learned previously and the victim of this interaction is not going to make the same mistake twice. Snakes with red and yellow patterns are venomous and quite deadly. However, there are other snakes with the same coloration that are harmless. You have to know how the pattern goes to determine whether you are in danger or not. Remember this phrase, "Red on black, I'm a friend of Jack. Red on yellow, I can kill a fellow." This sort of camouflage is also called Batesian mimicry. To avoid being eaten, a rather harmless or tasty species will mimic a dangerous one, hoping to avoid predators.

The forms of camouflage may not always work, but most of the time they do. If smaller species were not able to hide themselves, they would most likely become extinct. The nature of camouflage is an interesting feature for species to have, so be careful when you come across these crafty creatures so you don't give them away.

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