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5 animal masters of disguise


Photo by Frank Vassen licensed CC BY 2.0

Now you see them, now you don’t! Some animals have convincing camouflage, meaning they grow fur, scales or skin that allow them to completely blend into their natural habitat. 

Try to see if you can spot these amazing masters of disguise!

1. The Eastern screech owl

Eastern screech owl.
Photo by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren licensed CC BY 2.0

This beautiful bird has feathers with spots and bands of colour that give it excellent camouflage against tree bark in the forests of Canada and the United States. The Eastern screech owl is nocturnal, which means that it hunts at night and sleeps during the day. The camouflage allows the Eastern screech owl to nest in the trees unnoticed. Smart thinking — no one can wake you up if they can’t find you!

2. The Malayan horned frog

Malayan horned frog
Photo by Paul Williams licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

The Malayan horned frog makes its home on the rainforest floor. These clever frogs really know how to blend in. Check out their colour and the shape of their legs and head — they look just like fallen leaves! The Malayan horned frog has triangular “horns” on its nose and over its eyes that look just like points, with ridges on its back to simulate the overall shape of a three-pointed leaf.

3. The cuttlefish

Cuttle fish
Photo by Adrian Mohedano licensed CC BY 2.0

The cute cuttlefish is a small marine creature but it’s sometimes up against big predators like sharks and seals. To avoid these confrontations, the cuttlefish hides in plain sight with the power of camouflage! It can change its skin colour in up to 14 different ways with ninja-like speed. In as fast as a second the cuttlefish can disappear into the ocean floor or some nearby coral. It can also change the colours and textures of its skin to communicate with other cuttlefish. Now that would be an interesting conversation to watch!

4. The Arctic hare

Arctic hare
Photo by Karen Kohn licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This white rabbit’s disappearing act is no magic trick! The Arctic Hare is also known as the polar rabbit because it lives way up north in the Arctic Tundra. That’s why the Arctic hare grows white fur, to blend into the snow! However, it’s not always shivers and frozen paws for the Arctic hare. In the summer months when the snow melts, the Arctic Hare sheds its white fur and becomes brown, to match the underbrush. This makes the Arctic hare’s camouflage uniquely adaptable to the seasons.

5. The Uroplatus Gecko

Uroplatus gecko
Photo by Frank Vassen licensed CC BY 2.0

It’s a leaf! It’s tree bark! It’s the Uroplatus gecko! This species lives deep in the Madagascar jungle and comes in two different varieties: some look like leaves while others look like tree bark. The tree bark variety have also developed a flap of skin that runs along the length of their bodies. This allows the Uroplatus gecko to lay completely flat against a tree, making their outline practically invisible. A hide and seek game with these guys would take all day!

6. The orchid mantis

Orchid mantis
Photo by Frupus licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

The orchid mantis might look like a beautiful rainforest flower but it’s really an insect, and a carnivorous hunter at that! The flowery camouflage actually helps attract small flies who unknowingly land on the orchid mantis, where it’s waiting to catch and eat them. That means the orchid mantis never has to leave its house for dinner — it gets insect takeout delivered every night!