32 Examples of Camouflage in Nature

32 examples of camouflage in natureWhen you take your students to a park, nature reserve, or your school grounds in the hopes of observing animals in the “wild,” you definitely have to be patient. Animals and insects often blend in with their surroundings so they don’t attract too much attention, which can make it difficult to find them.

Both predators and prey animals use camouflage to their advantage. Predators blend in with the background so their prey won’t see them approaching until it’s too late. Prey animals need to blend in as well, so hungry predators pass right by them.

There are many different ways animals and insects can blend in with their surroundings. We’re going to explore five of them: color matching, disruptive coloration, self-decoration, active camouflage, and mimesis.

Tip: Use these examples in conjunction with PLT’s “Birds and Worms” activity.

Photo credit: Janet Bland

Color matching

Color matching is one of the most basic ways animals camouflage themselves. They’re able to blend in simply by matching the color of their surroundings. Check out these examples to see how well this works:

Color matching camouflage: Brown deer standing in brown leaves
The brown colors of this deer helps it blend in with the landscape in autumn. (Photo credit: John Morris)
Color matching camouflage: Orange butterfly among orange flowers
This butterfly matches the orange flowers it gathers nectar from. (Photo Credit: Sam Berlin)
Color matching camouflage: Red squirrel blending in
The colors of this red squirrel match the colors of the fallen leaves on the ground. (Photo credit: Smoky Combs)
Color matching camouflage: Rabbit in the desert
This rabbit’s coloring blends in with the dry landscape. (Photo credit: Stefanie Seskin)
Color matching camouflage: Kangaroos
Can you spot the two kangaroos near the center of the photo? They blend in perfectly with the landscape in New South Wales, Australia. (Photo credit: Manon D)
Color matching camouflage: Grasshopper
It can be easy to miss the grasshopper in this photo since it’s the same color as the blades of grass nearby! (Photo credit: Josh Harris)
Color matching camouflage: Prairie Dog
This prairie dog blends in so well with the color of its burrow, it would be easy to miss seeing it! (Photo credit: Melanie)

 

Disruptive coloration

Many animals and insects use more than one color to help them blend in with their surroundings. Spots, stripes, and asymmetrical shapes on their bodies can help break up the outline of the animal. Here are a few examples:

A toad blending in with its surroundings
This toad has greens and browns, helping it blend in with the muddy, mossy environment it lives in. (Photo credit: Tom Woordward)
Example of disruptive camouflage: Leopard
The spots on this leopard help it disguise the outline of its body, especially when it’s sitting in the shadows. (Photo credit: AlGraChe)
Disruptive coloration camouflage: Tiger
The orange color of a tiger’s fur helps it blend in with the vegetation of its natural habitat, and the stripes make it even harder to spot in the shadows. (Photo credit: Christian Dembowski)
The Syke's Nightjar: a great example of disruptive coloration camouflage
The coloring and pattern of the Sykes’s nightjar make it difficult for predators to see it while it’s in the nest. (Photo credit: Navin Sigamany)
Example of disruptive coloration camouflage: Scorpion Fish
The scorpionfish is a sit-and-wait predator, using its camouflage to blend in with its surroundings so unsuspecting prey swim right in front of it. (Photo credit: Jen R)
Example of disruptive coloration camouflage: Iguana
The coloring and pattern of this iguana helps it blend in with the vegetation it lives in. (Photo credit: Steve)
Example of disruptive coloration camouflage: Greater Sage-Grouse
The female greater sage-grouse prefers to nest among tall sagebrush, and its coloring helps it blend in with its habitat. (Photo credit: Tom Koerner/USFWS)
Disruptive coloration camouflage example: Turtle underwater
The pattern on this sea turtle helps it blend in with the pattern of the sunlight reflecting on the ocean floor. (Photo credit: green_kermit)

 

Self-decoration

Sometimes animals and insects use what’s available in the environment around them to blend in. For example, they may let moss grow on their shell or attach sea shells to their body to conceal themselves. Here are some examples:

Example of self-decoration camouflage: A turtle has moss on its shell to blend in with its surroundings
Algae can grow on turtles’ shells, especially when it lives in shallow waters, helping it bend in with its environment. (Photo credit: Jon Dawson)
This sea urchin attached shells to its body to camouflage itself
Sea urchins sometimes gather shells, rocks, and other objects, to help it bend in with the ocean floor. (Photo credit: Jen R)
The decorator crab adds things to its body to camouflage itself
Decorator crabs conceal themselves by covering their bodies in animals or plants to ward off predators. (Photo credit: Ed Blerman)
Masked Hunter Bug puts  sand on its body to camouflage itself
Masked hunter bugs camouflage themselves by covering their bodies with grains of sand. (Photo credit: Chiswick Chap)
Camouflaged crab has algae on its back to blend in with its surroundings
The algae growing on this crab helps it blend in with its environment in shallow waters. (Photo credit: Brocken Inaglory)

 

Active camouflage

Some animals have the ability to change their colors and patterns to help them blend in with their surroundings. Animals such as octopuses and flounder fish can quickly change their appearance. Other animals change colors with the season. This seasonal variation helps them blend in with the environment at different times throughout the year. Here are some examples of active camouflage:

This octopus is an example of active camouflage
Certain types of octupus can change the color and pattern of their skin by controlling the size of their cells. (Photo credit: gpparker)
Chameleon: Active camouflage example
Chameleons change the colors and patterns on their body to help regulate their body temperature and to send signals to other chameleons, but the colors and patterns can also help them blend in with their surroundings. (Photo credit: Hannes de Geest)
Example of active camouflage: This artic hare blends in with its surroundings
The Artic hare grows different colored fur depending on the season. In the summer, its fur is brown or grey. (Photo credit: Nancy Magnusson)
Example of active camouflage: This artic hare blends in with its surroundings in winter
In the winter, the Artic hare’s fur is white to help it blend in with the snow. (Photo credit: Charles Anderson)
Example of active camouflage: An arctic fox blends in with its surroundings in winter
The Arctic fox is another animal that grows different colored fur depending on the time of year to help it blend in with its surroundings. (Photo credit: Mark Dumont)

 
A flounder actively camouflages with the bottom of the sea
Peacock flounders can change their color and pattern in just eight seconds. (Photo credit: beautifulcataya)

 

Mimesis

Mimesis is when an object appears to be something that its not. Prey animals and insects sometimes mimic leaves, twigs, and other objects that predators wouldn’t be interested in. Here are some examples:

Leaf tailed gecko camouflaging with its surroundings
This leaf tailed gecko not only matches the color of the branch it’s perched on, but its tail looks like a leaf to further blend in with its surroundings. (Photo credit: Antony Stanley)
Butterfly that looks like a leaf to camouflage itself
The oakleaf butterfly closely resembles a dead leaf to disguise itself from hungry birds. (Photo credit: Marcin Wichary)
This Katydid looks like a leaf to help it blend in
The katydid is another type of insect that closely resembles a leaf. (Photo credit: Katja Shulz)
Caterpillars blend in with pine needles
These caterpillars look like they’re part of this evergreen tree. (Photo credit: Alan Madrid)
Example of of a butterfly mimicing a leaf
The cloudless sulphur might be difficult to spot in the fall since it mimics the color and pattern of yellow leaves. (Photo credit: Gary Nach)
Mimesis camouflage example: A bug that looks like a stick
Stick insects, or walking sticks, are the world’s longest insects and they stay still when a predator approaches to blend in with the branches. (Photo credit: Jon Fife)

We’d love to hear from you – what other animals have you seen use camouflage to blend in with their environment?

Rebecca Reynandez

Rebecca Reynandez

Rebecca Reynandez is a Marketing and Communications Consultant and Principal of Spring Media Strategies, LLC. She has worked with nonprofits for the past 10 years and currently focuses on working with environmental organizations. She is based in Minneapolis, MN.

3 comments on “32 Examples of Camouflage in Nature

  • Diana Haley says:

    Sandhill cranes “paint” their feathers with mud and decaying vegetation that help them blend in with the landscape. This color change lasts through the spring and summer.

    Reply
  • Ana Maria Caballero says:

    The Gray Treefrog -( Hyla versicolor), has several methods of camouflage – it blends in well, mimics tree bark, and can change color!

    Reply
  • At a time in Science which seems not to appreciate nature but rather electronics and robotics how great it is to see pictures of unbelievable nature. It is from nature that we receive the absolute essentials of life. It is from nature that school children learn to appreciate the uniqueness of all organisms. It is from these studies that we learn to appreciate that all life matters. It is from the studies of nature that we truly learn the “Circle of Life”.

    Reply

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