Halloween is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people lit bonfires and wore costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. Some animals do much the same thing, except they do it every day of the year, in an attempt to ward off predators and ambush prey. Animals have evolved a variety of features that let them blend in with their surroundings. Check out some great examples of animals in camouflage, below. Maybe you’ll get some ideas for next year’s costume!
Dead Leaf Mantis. The dead leaf mantis is sometimes called a praying mantis. It’s adept at the use of camouflage to blend in among fallen leaf litter. Can you see the one in the picture above? If you’re going to go as a dead leaf mantis for your next Halloween party, be sure the party is outdoors.
Rosy Spindle Cowrie. Yes, it’s an animal. The rosy spindle cowrie is a type of predatory marine snail in the Ovulidae family. It feeds on soft coral tissue and sea fans. It gets its camouflaged color pattern through a process called alimentary homochromy whereby the animals obtain the same color as the host by feeding, zombie-like, on the host. Bwahaha!
Red-eyed Tree Frog. The red-eyed tree frog sleeps during the day while clinging to leaves. Its green camouflage helps it to avoid detection by predators. When disturbed, a red-eyed tree frog will flash its bulging red eyes and bright orange feet to startle potential predators away. It’d be fun to try a red-eyed tree frog costume next Halloween. Just don’t forget the battery-operated flashing, bulging red eyes.
Arctic Fox. The elegant arctic fox lives in cold Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere. During the winter, the fox’s fur coat turns white so it can blend in with the ice and snow. During the summer, the fox’s fur coat turns brown or grey so that it can blend in with the rocks and vegetation. Style-conscious? No. The changes in color help the fox hunt its prey, for example, rodents and birds.
Leafy Sea Dragon. The leafy sea dragon is a marine fish closely related to seahorses and pipefish. This creature is a camouflage expert. Its leafy appendages make them nearly indistinguishable from floating seaweed. Only very thin people should try this costume.
Ocellated Frogfish. The ocellated frogfish is a marine fish that inhabits rock beds, sponges and coral reefs. It’s a master at camouflage, too, whose unusual appearance helps it to ambush unsuspecting prey. If this fish were a human, its Halloween party costume would be 1950s prom queen.
Horned Rattlesnake. It’s no party to stumble on one of these guys in desert regions of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. A horned rattlesnake’s intricately patterned skin, made up of subtle earth tones, is a very effective camouflage. Thank goodness for the rattle, which they sound when they believe they’re in danger.
Bottom line: This Halloween, take a costuming lesson from some of nature’s best camouflage artists.
Deanna Conners is an Environmental Scientist who holds a Ph.D. in Toxicology and an M.S. in Environmental Studies. Her interest in toxicology stems from having grown up near the Love Canal Superfund Site in New York. Her current work is to provide high-quality scientific information to the public and decision-makers and to help build cross-disciplinary partnerships that help solve environmental problems. She writes about Earth science and nature conservation for EarthSky.