(Contenido disponible en Español está marcado abajo)
Animals have developed all kinds of adaptations to help them survive. Some are poisonous, some have protective shells, and some have coloring that helps them blend into their surroundings. Let’s explore some cool camouflaged critters!
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Leaf or insect?
“Leaf” it to insects to develop incredible camouflage! Insects in the family Phyllidae, like the one pictured here, are related to walking stick insects, which also fool their predators with camouflage. When leaf insects walk, they even rock slightly to mimic the way wind might move a leaf. How cool is that?
Guiding Question: What do you notice about this insect’s camouflage? Can you think of other insects that have similar camouflage? Or look like plants?
Rabbits, like the easter cottontails we see in our area, have great camouflage. It’s called countershading. Their heads and backs are darker, while their stomachs are white. This helps them blend in with their surroundings on multiple levels. A predator flying above and looking down on them won’t be able to distinguish them from the ground, branches, and tree trunks. Similarly, a predator looking up from below will have trouble differentiating their white fur from the sky.
Guiding Question: Do you think the rabbit in this picture blends in well with its surroundings? Why or why not? Do you remember what this kind of camouflage is called? Can you think of another animal that has this kind of camouflage?
Caterpillar or bird poop?
At a glance, you might mistake this black swallowtail caterpillar for something else…like bird poop! Different caterpillars have different colorations to help them survive. While some have bright coloring to ward off predators, others look like things that birds and other predators wouldn’t want to eat! Like poop!
Guiding Question: What does this caterpillar look like to you? If you were a bird, would you want to eat it? Why or why not?
Growing up and blending in!
Believe it or not, this caterpillar is also a black swallowtail caterpillar! As caterpillars get bigger, they molt their skin and often develop different coloring. Want to explore more about butterfly and caterpillar coloring and camouflage? Click here for a great Story Time book, “The Magic School Bus: Butterfly and the Bog Beast.”
Guiding Question: What do you notice about this stage of the caterpillar’s coloring? What do you notice about the plant it’s on? Do you think the two might be related?
Can you spot Gorgeous?
When you see our box turtles at the Nature Museum, it might be hard to imagine how their coloring can help them hide. When you see them outside, though, it starts to make a lot of sense! Notice how Gorgeous beautifully blends into the leaves and mulch!
Guiding Question: What’s unique about this turtle’s coloring? How do you think it helps her? What about one of our green box turtles (like Harrison or Onyx pictured at the top of this email)? How does that different coloring help them?
Let’s camouflage our own butterfly!
(Disponible en español)
Now that we’ve explored camouflage for different animals, let’s create our own! Click here to download our educator-developed activity that guides you through making and hiding your own camouflaged butterfly!
Guiding Question: What helped your butterfly to blend in? How could you change your butterfly to make it blend in more?
Behind the Scenes
Remember the leaf insects we talked about earlier? They’re related to walking stick insects. Although they can be hard to spot in the wild, scientist Allen came across one while doing fieldwork!