|Field and Swamp: Animals and Their Habitats
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Mimicry, Camouflage and More: Fooling Predators and Prey
There are many ways a small animal can mislead predators or prey by disguising itself. The most obvious ways are by 1) looking like a more dangerous animal, 2) looking like something uninteresting or 3) becoming invisible by blending into its surroundings. Sometimes, though, these animals make mistakes, and we humans sometimes unintentionally set them up to do so.
A word to the wise: these little pictures are thumbnails, i.e., if you click on any of them, you'll see a much larger version of that picture. If not, you may miss the crucial details that make the point.
|The predator look
|They invite to bite
|They make their own cover
|Real trouble (yellow & black)
|Real trouble (red & black)
|Like a Lichen
Just for openers: pairs/threes/or more of mimicked and mimicker
See full-size images without having to click on thumbnails.
The Predator Look
These animals generally look as if they have big heads. Eyespots imply this, but sometimes the design represents complete mimicry of a long jaw with many teeth. Sometimes, though, the animal just looks heavily armed.
They invite to bite
When some predators see eyes and/or wiggling parts, they bite.
You don't really know me: animals that use either camouflage or Batesian mimicry, depending on the lighting.
Simple Mimicry: hiding in plain sight, useful for both predators and prey
These each look like something else that is unappetizing (and unthreatening), but are still clearly visible.
The dead leaf or twig look
The bird dropping look
The fading flower look
Mighty like a lichen
Camouflage: These animals, on the other hand, blend in with their natural background.
Camouflage mistakes: Sometimes animals either fail to adjust their skin to the right color or pick the wrong background.
Animals that rely on camouflage have special difficulties adapting to artificially produced environments, especially those with solid colors or those simply not found in certain natural environments.
Sometimes camouflage works against the animal's interest, most notably with dark gravel pavement.
Some insects hide under a cover of their own creation.
Müllerian Mimicry: they are dangerous and let you know it
Actually, this is the real article: warnings given by these colors and patterns should be heeded. It's not really mimicry, but that's the official term!
The insects (wasps and bees) shown below announce with their yellow-and-black stripes that they possess venomous post-abdominal stingers, and they are telling the truth.
Batesian Mimicry: sheep in wolves' clothing
These insects can't sting, but they'd like you to believe they can. The insects in these two rows mimic stinging prey of common predators.
Yellow and black stripes in these animals mislead predators into thinking that they sting.
A few interesting variations on the yellow-and-black stripes theme...
More Müllerian Mimicry: red and black, but not friend of Jack
Red or orange with black is a warning of poison. All of the below, as does the Monarch Butterfly, eat the alkaloid-rich milkweed family members, which give them a bitter taste.
Like the milkweed-eaters, these animals are genuinely poisonous, but they inject venom with bites or stings.
More Batesian Mimicry: red and black (sometimes with white)
There are many insects and some spiders in this group. In the first row, we see the fancy ones: the first two can look green instead of black in direct light. The others sport multiple white stripes.
Since there are so many red and black insects, this might also serve as an abridged identification guide to this large, confusing group.
Spots, whether red on black or vice versa, are a common sight. All of these animals are designed to ward off predators: they are all herbivorous except for the Ladybug Beetle, whose black-spotted red expanse towers, out of sight, over its tiny aphid prey.
These mostly very young animals are almost all red, with small amounts of black.
And this young animal's species is unique here, its members containing tetrodotoxin, the same poison that makes the notorious Japanese puffer fish so deadly, but this does not protect them from certain wily (and dexterous) predators, according to Eisner (2003).
These three red-and-black arthropods all mimic one another; none attacks humans (but please don't eat them in any case...)
Here is a very miscellaneous group that also would make easy prey without their distinctive colors. Although Boxelder Bug nymphs are lively, even they are handicapped by their winglessness.
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