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5 animals that look like leaves


Photo credit: Frupus on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC

You won’t be-leaf this! These animals look like they should be growing on trees. From bugs to lizards to fish, each one resembles a leaf. And with the arrival of autumn, it seems like the perfect time to get to know a bit more about these creatures. Let’s go!

Leaf-tailed gecko

a camouflaged gecko on a brown tree branch

Photo credit: brian.gratwicke on VisualHunt / CC BY

This reptile is found only in Madagascar. Its body looks like a dead leaf, thanks to its brown, veined skin. And its tail resembles a rotted leaf. The gecko’s appearance helps it blend in with its surroundings during the daytime. When a predator — like a bird or a snake — spots the gecko, the reptile can flash its leaf-like tail to try and confuse the animal or, if that doesn’t work, it can leap from a branch and land in the leaves on the ground to make a quick getaway. 

Oakleaf butterfly

a brown butterfly looking like a dead leaf on a green tree branch

Can you spot the butterfly? (Photo credit: Michael W. May on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND)

We often think of butterflies as brightly coloured bugs. But the oakleaf butterfly is not like most butterflies. When its wings are closed, it looks just like a brown, dry leaf. This means the oakleaf can rest on a tree in its rainforest home and remain perfectly camouflaged, keeping safe from birds that are looking for a meal. Once the butterfly spreads its wings and takes flight, it suddenly becomes a different bug. The tops of its wings are deep blue and orange, transforming the oakleaf into a beautiful and bright butterfly.

South American leaf fish

a leaf fish swimming among leaves in the water

Photo credit: GeraldS on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC

This fish swims along in South American rivers, lakes and streams, looking like a floating, harmless leaf. And that’s just how the fish likes it. Since it resembles a leaf, other creatures don’t pay it much attention. But when unsuspecting prey gets too close, they quickly learn that this fish is big trouble. The leaf fish sucks in the prey like a vacuum cleaner, gobbling its meal whole. Then the fish continues to drift along and wait for another tasty treat to swim nearby. Gulp.

Ghost mantis

a ghost mantis sitting still with a dragonfly on its back

Can you spot the ghost mantis? Hint: It's got a dragonfly sitting on its back! (Photo credit: Frupus on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC)

Measuring a bit bigger than a toonie, the ghost mantis has a body that looks like a dead leaf. Even its legs look like dry, withered leaves. This bug spends its time in trees, waiting for prey to wander by. If a predator gets too close, the mantis pulls its legs close to its body, sits still and hopes its leaf-like look keeps it hidden. If that trick doesn’t work, the bug sways back and forth in the hopes that it fools the predator by looking like a leaf blowing in the breeze. If all else fails, run!

Leaf insect

a leaf insect blending in with the leaves on a tree

Wikimedia/Wilfried Berns/CC BY-SA 2.0 DE

The leaf insect is able to hide from predators because it looks so much like a leaf. Its flat green body has leaf-like veins. Sometimes the bodies of these bugs even have brown edges and splotches that add to their look. In fact, they resemble a leaf so much that other bugs often mistake them for the real thing and try to take a bite of them! These imposters feed on berries, vines and, funnily enough, leaves.