One of the best strategies for avoiding being eaten by predators is to hide in plain sight. But there’s camouflage and there is camouflage. These species go beyond just blending into the background, they practically become one with it, disguising themselves so well as leaves that you could spend hours looking at a tree without realizing you’re looking at more than just the tree itself!
Insects are old hats at mimicking leaves to fool predators. In fact, the strategy may have begun as far back at 47 million years ago and hasn’t changed a whole lot since then. After all, if you’ve already made yourself look like a leaf, the bulk of the evolutionary work is done. Sonja Wedmann of the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitat in Bonn, Germany, says, “This absence of evolutionary change is an outstanding example of morphological and, probably, behavioral stasis.”
Some of the more well known leaf-mimicking insects include some katydids, praying mantis, butterflies and moths. But the variety of species and their strategies, from size to shape to color, are as diverse as the leaves they mimic.
Insects are the only ones that have figured out the brilliance of blending into the leaf-littered background. These lizards have also perfected their own strategies.
Leaf-tail geckos are amazing at blending into the background. Different species have developed different ways of camouflaging themselves depending on the leaves that surround them, and each is as impressive as the next.
Sadly, they may be good at hiding, but not good enough — according to Wikipedia: “Most are threatened due to deforestation and habitat loss, therefore more are taken out of the wild [for the pet trade] in areas that are being preped for being cut down. The World Wide Fund for Nature lists all the Uroplatus species on their “Top ten most wanted species” list of animals threatened by illegal wildlife trade, because of it ‘being captured and sold at alarming rates for the international pet trade’.”