January 03, 2013

Why are some animals so well camouflaged?

Simply put, the detailed camouflage you can come across in the rainforest is astonishing. Whether it be a frog, an insect, or a lizard, camouflage is an essential part of survival in an ecosystem full of very intelligent predators. 

Here are some of the most impressive examples of camouflage we've come across in Tambopata.

Sphaenorhyncus lacteus, the greater hatchet-faced treefrog.
Photo by Phil Torres

A katydid.
Photo by Jeff Cremer.

A Plica plica tree runner camouflages against the bark of a large Ficus tree.
Photo by Phil Torres

Another related katydid- some camouflage against dead leaves, others against live, green leaves.
Photo by Jeff Cremer

Predators- like monkeys and birds- have remarkable visiion, pattern recognition, and learning abilities. Young birds can quickly learn which butterflies are distasteful or poisonous, and monkeys can learn which 'fake leaf,' like the katydids pictured, are actually edible insects.

Because of that learning ability, many of these camouflaged species are polymorphic- meaning the same species will come in a variety of different camouflage schemes. Within the above katyid species for example, some will look more like a live leaf while others have dead-leaf venation. The variation helps prevent monkeys from learning one single false-leaf pattern as food and makes it more difficult for them to find and eat these cryptic creatures.

Camouflage is one of many survival tactics that have evolved in the animals of the rainforest. While some species may focus on being poisonous, dangerous, or fast, these guys do an incredible job of looking more plant-like than animal-like, and it seems to pay off.


  1. "The pressure that predators put on populations of these animals means that only the most well camouflaged survive to reproduce, and the others get eaten!"

    This isn't proven, as other katydids are not camouflaged and have survived just as well.

  2. Good comment. It's important to note that there are various strategies to survival, all that require different investments. For these guys, they invest in camouflage because that has worked best. Other species (of katydids or other animals) invest more in perhaps jumping and flying away when disturbed (muscles), having bright eye-spots to scare away predators, having hard spikes to make them difficult to eat, or squirting a chemical defense.

    All different means to survive, all from the pressures of predators.

  3. "Their way of life is different, as they are created in such a manner that makes them to survive", that is why millions desire to enjoy the wildlife even the recent advanced technology fond them to enjoy the Africa places through Africajoytours - Kilimanjaro Climb that offer the vivid characteristic of their survival.


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