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CAMOUFLAGE

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Camouflage uses color and pattern
Making it harder to discern
Animals that don’t wish to be viewed
By predators for whom they are food.

The skin of a Fowler’s toad,
Matches its earthy abode:
The leaf mold that is found,
Around trees on the ground.

Earlier pages include examples of organisms with colors that blend in with their backgrounds.  How many can you find?

Whether a possible prey, or as a predator, there are benefits from being less easy to detect.    The notes to black and white point to benefits of shading and patterns.   Here we encounter quite complicated patterns which make organisms very hard to see. 

The Fowler’s toad (Anaxyrus fowleri) is a North American toad that lives mostly on land, rather than in water. It usually lives near water, and will return to a lake, pond, stream or river to breed.    While on land, it moves around among the leaves and twigs dropped by surrounding trees. Often it digs into the ground.  As with the killer whale, there is a difference between the top (dorsal) and under (ventral) surfaces.  The top side, being the one that potential predators will see, is marked with grays, blacks, light fawn and orange spots … creating an irregular pattern with colors similar to those found in litter (the accumulation of dead plant material on the surface of the soil).  

A stick insect on a tree
Is really hard to see.
Right colors, some dots drawn,
Abracadabra, and it’s gone

Like the Fowler’s toad, this stick insect (Candovia) has browns and grays, light and dark colors that resemble the tree-trunk on which it sits. The edges of the body are not regular.  Four of the legs can be found fairly quickly. Being an insect, it has six legs, the the last two are held close together and point in front of the head (to the top).  An extremely good case of how selection favors characteristics that make this organism hard to see. Candovia belongs to the ‘phasmids’ – a group of insects that eat plant material. They are likely to sit in the same place for some time while they munch through a leaf.  Many phasmids have various different ways of obscuring themselves – they include the leaf insects that we encounter on the ‘Pretendpage. They seem to be quite good at it, as phasmids include some of the largest insects. In addition to camouflage, some phasmids also have scare tactics, such as brightly colored patches that are normally hidden from view but can be flashed at a possible predator to scare it off.

Consider the tawny frogmouth bird.
While to some it may seem absurd,
It only has to close its peepers
To be the branch on which it teeters.

Prizewinner!

The Tawny frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) was in 2019 voted the second most popular bird in Australia.  Its color patterns make it look like a stick, especially so when its eyes (peepers) are closed. They will sit, almost frozen, giving little sign that they are alive.   They are night birds and eat many small animals, especially those that are considered pests or vermin.

Tawny frogmouth by Ed Dunens

If you have questions and suggestions, please let us know below.

Nature Reader colors web Camouflage

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