Best masters of disguise

Posted on Sep 15, 2010 in Looks

Get the lowdown on nature’s greatest bluffers, imitators and imposters.




Master of disguise - The mink octopus

This crafty creature can change its colour and shape to blend in to its environment. Incredibly, it also can change its behaviour to  impersonate a whole range of other creatures. Watch the video to see it in action.


© MOles – flickr


Best ‘I’m a leaf’ camouflage – The dead-leaf katydid & stick insect

These bugs are superb leaf impersonators which help them remain invisible to insect-eating birds and other predators. Many insects, including moths and butterflies, use a similar disguise, while treehoppers have a slightly different approach and disguise themselves as spiky thorns on a branch.  


©xxxxxxx – flickr

Most revolting camouflage – Bird dropping spider

Even in the animal kingdom, bird-poo is not considered haute cuisine which is just the way these sneaky spiders like it. With greyish/black and white bodies they hang out on leaves – popular targets for bird droppings – and pull in their legs just to complete the look. This crafty disguise is also used by some caterpillars as well.
Best bird camouflage – The tawny frogmouth
After a hard night hunting small animals, this master of disguise from Australia spends the day snoozing, worry-free,  in trees.  Perched upright and motionless - its grey feathers blend perfectly with its surroundings and make it look like a broken branch.
© Luc_Viatour – Wikimedia


Prettiest insect camouflage – The orchid mantis

The beautiful orchid mantis uses its dazzling features to blend in perfectly with white orchids. It sits and waits as  unsuspecting insects, such as wasps,  are lured towards it, thinking it to be a flower. Unluckily for them, they’re very much mistaken.



© Nialat –


Best seasonal camouflage – The arctic fox

In winter, against the  white of the Arctic snow a brown fox would stand out like a sore thumb. Which is why they grow a thick white winter coat that keeps them warm and camouflages them. Clever fox


© flucas-


Camouflage of confusion – The zebra

With their stripes, zebras are easy to spot on the savannah. But from a hundred metres away their stripes mirror the waviness of the air and help them blend into the shimmering horizon. They also make it very difficult for a predator to single out an individual.


© Tim Vickers – wikimedia


Best snake camouflage – The gaboon viper

In the open this snake is pretty easy to spot but amongst fallen leaves - it’s a different story.  Its distinctive markings help the viper disappear and allow it to watch and wait for lunch to walk past. And with fearsome 2-cm long fangs and a venom powerful enough to kill us - it’s one ‘leaf’ you definitely don’t want to step on.


© prilfish – flickr


Best fish camouflage – The stonefish

The stonefish is another predator who is a master of disguise. As its name suggests, the stonefish can change its colouring and shape to perfectly blend in amongst the stones as it waits for something tasty, like an unsuspecting shrimp, to swim passed. It then strikes and consumes its victim in the blink of an eye.


Why are penguins black and white?

Penguin: © Ralf Kraft – Orca: © –


Answer: For camouflage. Their white fronts mean their favourite snacks such as fish don’t spot them against the light coming from above. Similarly, when predators such as killer whales swim above them, their dark backs mean the killer whales struggle to spot the penguins against the dark water below them. Unfortunately for penguins, nature gave killer whales the same highly effective camouflage…

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