Natural camouflage is an amazing mechanism that many creatures have to reduce their chance of being detected by visually hunting predators. Camouflage is an adaptation that animals both large and small have developed over many years through evolution to increase their chances of survival in the natural world.
There are several factors that determine what sort of camouflage an animal may have. The first factor that will determine how an animal will camouflage depends on the behavior of the animal. For example, a solitary animal like the American Alligator will camouflage differently than say, a wood stork that will generally travel with a flock.
The most important factor in regards to camouflage is thought to be the animal’s environment. The simplest camouflage technique is for an animal to match the “background” of its surroundings. For most animals, “blending in” is the most effective approach. In most mammals, camouflage coloration is seen in fur because this is the outermost layer of the body. In reptiles, amphibians and fish, it is in the scales. In birds it is in the feathers and in insects it is part of the exoskeleton.
Baby White-tailed deer as well as baby alligators are a few of our favorite masters of camouflage. Baby white-tailed deer are born with white spots to better blend into their grassy surroundings. These spots will disappear as the animal matures. Baby alligators are born with brownish-grey scales, but unlike their parents, also have yellow striping on their backs that also help them blend into low lying banks of a watering hole. It is not uncommon for newborns of many species to have different coloring than their parents. These physical changes allow for a higher chance of survival for these young creatures.
Burmese pythons are experts at camouflage and are hard to spot in thick forests, especially at night in the Everglades. They are cold blooded, so they can’t be detected with thermal imaging methods. However, the snakes have very low reflection compared to the inanimate objects that surround them so they stand out in stark contrast when viewed through a near infrared lens.
Copperhead and rattle snakes are also excellent masters of camouflage as their coloring is almost identical to the leaves and grass that they slither upon, which makes them almost impossible to see.
So be careful out there! Bring a camera, keep your eyes open and try to spot some of these masters of camouflage for yourself while out researching in the field.