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Natural Camouflage

Jul 07, 2014

People can buy camouflage clothing in patterns that blend with cattails, tree bark or even snow. Wild animals don’t need to worry about camouflage because most of them have it built in.

Animals are camouflaged for two main reasons: to enable prey to hide from predators, and to allow predators to hide while they wait for prey.

Most predators find prey by sight, so prey animals that blend into their surroundings avoid being seen and eaten. Most animals must remain motionless for their camouflage to be effective. The walking stick, an insect which is described by its name, is indistinguishable from the tree on which it eats. When a hungry bird flies by, the walking stick becomes rigid, just like a stick, fooling the bird into passing up this tasty morsel.

More about walking sticks:

In Missouri, walking sticks prefer to eat the leaves of oak, walnut and cherry trees. They live a nocturnal lifestyle and are usually only seen when they wander out and end up on vehicles or in buildings, where their camo fails them. The females drop their eggs in the fall and young walking sticks hatch in the spring and make their way to nearby trees.

Learn more about these hidden insects in MDC’s Field Guide on walking sticks

Most female birds have dull, drab colors, while their mates are brightly colored. The female can remain undetected as she sits on the nest and cares for the young. Check out the MDC Field Guide on Birds.

Predators, too, use camouflage to remain hidden from danger. But they also use camouflage to hide from their prey. The brightly-colored crab spider ambushes unsuspecting insects on a flower of the same color. And copperhead snakes blend into the dead leaves on the forest floor.

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