Hiding in Plain Sight

By Matt Seek | June 1, 2013
From Xplor: June/July 2013

Nature is full of disappearing acts. Many animals have skin, scales, feathers, or fur with colors and patterns that blend in with their surroundings. Other animals are shaped like leaves, sticks, and even bird droppings. A few animals change color to match whatever background they happen to be on at the time. The ability to blend in is called camouflage, and it gives animals an edge in the dangerous game of survival. Many camouflaged critters live in Missouri. See if you can spot them hiding in these pictures.

Crab Spider

Next time you sniff a flower, a sneaky hunter may be hiding right under your nose. Crab spiders don’t weave webs to catch prey. Instead, they wait patiently on flowers, relying on camouflage to stay hidden. When a bee buzzes in, the spider pounces.

Tulip-Tree Beauty

Moths lead a tough life. At night, they dodge bats. During the day, they dodge birds. The tulip-tree beauty has evolved one beauty of a solution to solve the problem of being eaten. When it flutters onto a tree trunk, it becomes nearly invisible.


Katydids are often heard but rarely seen. That’s because the leaf-loving insects are master mimics. Not only are most katydids shaped and colored like leaves, but many also have veins on their wings that look nearly identical to the veins on a leaf.

Eastern Screech-Owl

After a hard night of hunting, all a screech-owl wants to do is catch some shut-eye. But hawks would love a screechy snack, and blue jays swoop and squawk to drive screech-owls away. What’s a sleepy bird to do? Close its big yellow eyes and pretend to be a branch.

Eastern Red Bat

Not all bats sleep in caves. Red bats hang out in trees — literally. After a night of bug busting, a sleepy bat finds a branch and dangles upside down, doing its best to look like a leaf. Most bats go a step further, hanging by just one foot so they twist and flutter like foliage.

American Bittern

Pay no attention to me, I’m just a clump of cattails. When predators come prowling, bitterns don’t flinch a feather. Instead, the brown-streaked birds freeze and point their beaks skyward. Sometimes they rock back and forth, hoping to look like reeds swaying in the breeze.

And More...

This Issue's Staff

David Besenger
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
Tim Smith
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White