5… 4… 3… 2… 1… ready or not, here we come! Playing hide and seek is one of the great joys of childhood. For animals in the wild, though, playing hide and seek is more than a game. For many, it’s a matter of life and death!
There are four basic ways animals camouflage themselves. First, some animals hide themselves by staying against a background that matches their color.
Of course, as seasons change, some animals find that their winter coloring no longer helps conceal them in warmer weather.
As a result, some animals change coloration throughout the year to keep up with changing seasons. Environmental cues, such as the temperature or the amount of daylight, may trigger these changes.
Other animals have unique markings, such as spots, stripes and patterns, that you might think would make them stand out too much. These special markings — called "disruptive coloration" — can actually help break up their outline, so that they don’t stand out.
For example, a zebra’s stripes help it blend in. Although we can clearly see zebras, colorblind lions often see their stripes as blending in with tall grasses.
Some really clever animals blend in with their surroundings by looking like a common object. We call this method "disguise."
For example, the walking stick is an insect that looks so much like a branch that it can be nearly impossible to spot in the wild!
For example, the Viceroy butterfly mimics the look of the poisonous Monarch butterfly to avoid predators.
However, what many people may not realize is that chameleons tend to change their skin color when their mood changes, not to camouflage themselves in new or different surroundings!