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7 Masters of Disguise in the Animal Kingdom

7 Masters of Disguise in the Animal Kingdom
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Do you ever wish you could just quietly sink into a hole or melt into the background to avoid someone? Well, unfortunately for us, we’re not usually allowed to do that, but it’s a legitimate survival strategy in the animal world, especially for insects and fish. Lots of our animal cousins blend into their backgrounds with color patterns that match bark, grasses, and other habitats, but some go the extra mile: they pretend to be someone else.

1. Leafy sea dragon Check out the picture below. Looks like a clump of kelp or something, right?

A leafy sea dragon floating in the water, looking like a patch of seaweed.

Look again. What you’re actually seeing is a leafy sea dragon, a seahorse relative found in Australia. While it might not have the same sleek, familiar body type as the seahorse, it does have another trick up its sleeve: it hides from potential predators by looking like some boring old ocean detritus. Like the seaweeds they imitate, they drift through the ocean waters, and yes, the men are responsible for raising the young of the household. Gender progressivism and camouflage in one package!

2. Owl butterfly


You know how it is. You’re drifting through the evening looking for an insect to round off your meal when you suddenly spot an owl that looks ready to chow down. Time to duck out of the way and head in the opposite direction before you’re noticed. Only this time, you got totally played by a butterfly: a butterfly with a big eye spot designed to stand out, looking like the eyes of a hungry owl glowing in the dark.

3. Mimic Octopus

One of my personal favorites, and not just because I love octopi.

A mimic octopus on the sea floor, looking very stripy.

The mimic octopus, native to Indonesia, takes color-changing very seriously. It doesn’t just blend in with its background; it’s capable of pretending to be other ocean animals in addition to plants, hiding in plain sight from potential predators and prey alike. In this image, it’s pretending to be a cluster of poisonous sea snakes. But it’s not just faking the look: these intelligent creatures also mimic the behaviors of the animals they’re impersonating. Pretty nifty, eh?

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Photo credits: Lyn Gately, D. Gordon E. Robertson, Steve Childs, Alexey Yakovlev, Matthew Kenwrick, Luc Viator and prilfish. Top Photo from Thinkstock

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453 comments

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9:16AM PST on Dec 29, 2013

beautiful ))

9:46AM PDT on Aug 29, 2013

all of these are so awesome. shared

9:29AM PDT on Aug 27, 2013

thanks for sharing :)

5:20AM PDT on Aug 27, 2013

Thanks for the article.

8:14AM PDT on Aug 26, 2013

Thanks

1:09PM PDT on Aug 25, 2013

Thanks for posting.

7:04AM PDT on Aug 25, 2013

Very cool, the wonders of mother nature never cease to amaze...
Thanks for posting...

8:33PM PDT on Aug 24, 2013

very interesting, thanx for sharing! =0)

8:53AM PDT on Aug 24, 2013

I find it so satisfying to learn about the wonders of nature. I will never stop being "awed" by the spectacle of the kinds of things I saw here.
Thank you.

7:39AM PDT on Aug 24, 2013

I love this stuff, and I especially love the mimic octopus. So smart!

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Lindsay Spangler Lindsay Spangler is a Web Editor and Producer for Care2 Causes. A recent UCLA graduate, she lives in... more
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