CAMOUFLAGE is a behavioural adaptation for survival. Living organisms use many different strategies to avoid predators or to deceive potential prey animals. Some organisms have evolved outer appearances and behaviors that allow them to blend in or match with part of their surroundings. This strategy, known as camouflage is employed by many species. Camouflage takes advantage of several methods the brain uses to make sense of what the eye sees. For example, our eyes are very good at detecting edges. With camouflage that blurs edges, we have a hard time detecting the shape.
Some methods of Camouflage follow.
Mimicry is when an animal appears similar to another organism or part of an organism. For example, the Viceroy butterfly, which is very tasty to birds, protects itself by mimicking the appearance of the foul-tasting Monarch butterfly. This type of mimicry, where one species mimics another that is distasteful or armed with spines, stingers or toxic chemicals (such as snake venom), was first described by the English naturalist, Henry Walter Bates.
The animal disguises itself as something that does not look like food. The Mantis or Stick Insect can disguise itself as a leaf.
Patterns (or disruptive coloration)
Zebras are a common example of using pattern to confuse predators, particularly because most animals are colorblind. Predators also use camouflage to keep their prey from noticing their presence. The wavy lines of a zebra blend in with the wavy lines of the tall grass around it. It doesn’t matter that the zebra’s stripes are black and white and the lines of the grass are yellow, brown or green, because the zebra’s main predator, the lion, is colorblind.
Animals that are colored similarly to the background include polar bears, snowy owl, the flat fish, meerkats, banded rail, some frogs, and the tree gecko.
The Chameleon is erroneously (incorrectly) the most popular example of this method, in which some chameleon species are able to change their skin colors. Different chameleon species are able to change different colors which can include pink, blue, red, orange, green, black, brown, light blue, yellow, turquoise and purple. However, the primary purpose of color change in chameleons is social signaling, with camouflage secondary. Cuttlefish and Octopus are good colour changers for camouflage purposes.
Cuttlefish have been captured on film exhibiting sophisticated camouflage strategies at night, according to scientists who are using new high-resolution cameras to bring these dramatic changes into focus. National Geographic says that come dusk, the cuttlefish turn from colorful billboards into masters of disguise, retiring to the seafloor, where they use their extraordinary color manipulation to hide from predators such as dolphins. Plenty of sea creatures employ camouflage at night, but cuttlefish have made it an art form.
“Each animal adopts a tailor-made camouflage pattern for the particular microhabitat that it settles in. An animal that settles in sand will appear one way, and ten feet (three meters) away, where it’s all algae, another will be camouflaged differently.”
David Gallo, a pioneer in ocean exploration, shows some astonishing underwater camouflages in the Video below.
You can see a great photo of a camouflaged Praying Mantis on this website. Click HERE.