As St. Patrick’s day nears, we can expect to see a proliferation of all things green. Green clothes will be worn, landmark buildings will be illuminated with green light bulbs, food and beer will be colored, rivers will be tinted, and lord knows a host of hapless pets will be dyed various shades of shamrock in the name of old St. Paddy. Instead of subjecting Buddy to artificial coloring to ingest as he attempts to lick himself back to a more dignified tone of dog, why not enjoy some of the animals that nature intended to be green? You’ll notice that, in fact, nature doesn’t have much use for animals with green fur. Feathers, scales, and wings? yes. Although there is one mammal with green fur. Curious? Click through to find out.
Green Shield Bug
Most green creatures, like the green shield bug above, are those that live in trees or tropical climates–which makes perfect sense when the concept of camouflage is considered. Fur-bearing animals generally live in cooler climates–hence the fur. Were they a striking shade of kelly green they’d be an all-too excellent target for predators in the barren winter. The green shield bug, clever beetle that it is, turns a deep bronze in the winter to better blend with the bark of the deciduous trees where it hibernates.
Red-Eyed Tree Frog
My, what giant crazy red eyes and orange toes you have! So if green is all about camouflage, how do you explain those eyes, those feet?! In the case of the red-eyed tree frog, it’s called a startle mechanism. If one of these nocturnal frogs is awakened during the day by a predator, the eyes boing open and the feet boing out and the predator is startled just long enough for the quick-as-lightening frog to boing right out reach.
Chameleons are renown for their ability to shift color, but the color change serves only partly for camouflage. Although resting chameleons often assume colors similar to their surroundings, color change is most often used to signify emotional state. (Did the words “mood ring” immediately pop to mind?) Many chameleons that are some shade of green or brown when languid become far more brightly colored when frightened, courting, or defending a territory against another chameleon.
Caterpillars are masters of disguise, adapting color and markings that mimic the host flora. And it’s a good thing, because they are pretty much just slowly creeping targets for hungry birds and mammals–their markings might as well just spell out s-n-a-c-k on their backs. But caterpillars have adapted an array of interesting defense mechanisms beyond color camouflage. Such as “eyespots” that make the insect look like the face of a much larger animal and may scare away some predators–others ingest toxic plants that make them poisonous, some even emit offensive odors to keep predators at bay.
White-Eyed Conure Parrot
Although it is not always the case for birds, many show sexual dimorphism–differences between males and females; think showy guys and drab gals like cardinals, mallard ducks, yellow finches, pheasants, turkeys and, the poster child for sexual dimorphism, the peafowl. It takes energy to produce such gaudy plumage which signifies to the female “vim! vigor!” It’s the equivalent of bird bling. Alas, brightly-hued birds are also much more conspicuous to predators–green species, like this conure parrot, have the advantage of blending in with the green hues of the trees which they inhabit.
There is no animal slower than a sloth, few cuter, and no other mammal that has green fur. Sloths are so slow, that they sometimes won’t leave a single tree for two or three years! Because of their exceedingly low-energy diet, all things sloth are adapted to energy conservation. Unlike most mammals living in the warm tropical forests, sloths are covered in dense hair-like fur to conserve heat. This fur also serves as effective camouflage, because each individual hair contains a groove which holds blue-green algae–hence, green fur. Tada! During the rainy season, this algae population in a sloth’s fur multiplies, giving the sloth a mossy-green color; in the dry season, there is less algae and the sloths turn a more brownish color. No sin in that…