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Creatures in Costumes: Nature’s Halloween

October 31st, 2017|Tags: , , |


By Dylan StuntzAmerican Forests

This Halloween season, if you can’t seem to find a costume take a page out of one of these creatures’ books. The following animals get into the Halloween spirit so much they’ll wear their costumes and disguises 24/7!

Bark-mimicking grasshopper

Credit: Fir000/Flagstaffotos via Flickr
The coloration of the bark-mimicking grasshopper can be found all over its body, even under its wings!

This insect wears a costume not to stand out, but to blend in. The bark-mimicking grasshopper acts exactly as the name implies – it disguises itself to look like the bark of trees. By remaining perfectly still, the pattern on its back melds into the tree or branch that it finds itself on. This type of adaptive camouflage allows the insect to hide in plain sight. While this may not be the best costume to go trick-or-treating in, this trick will help the grasshopper avoid becoming a predator’s tasty treat!

Octopus

Credit: Daiju Azuma
This octopus has decided to wear a clamshell for the Halloween party it’s throwing!

The octopus is a member of the Cephalopod family, and like its cousins the squid and the cuttlefish, it’s capable of some pretty incredible feats of trickery. It can contort its body into pretty much any shape, as well as having complete control over the colors that appear on its skin. An octopi’s body is covered in cells called chromatophores, which can be full of colorful pigments, allowing the octopus to switch colors quickly. The octopus is able to change color by inflating or deflating specific cells, similar to blowing up tiny balloons. These underwater creatures use their disguises to blend into the background of the ocean, so they can hide from predators and easily ambush prey.

Spicebush Caterpillar

Credit: John Flannery
The large dark spots on the caterpillar are false eyes called “eyespots,” which are enough to fool any predator that doesn’t want to mess with a potential snake.

This caterpillar uses its disguise to scare away predators, tricking them into thinking there’s a snake sitting on the branch. The Spicebush Caterpillar has false eyespots on its back end, and when threatened it will inflate its body so that it resembles a snake. It will even pattern its movement around that of the reptilian predator, moving and darting its “head” in order to maintain the disguise.

Chameleon

Credit: Oliver Ruhm
Stripes, spots and colors are no problem for the average chameleon, who can change their appearance to whatever suits their fancy.

Chameleons are tree-living lizards with the capacity to change their body’s colors. Colors can range from green, brown, blue, yellow, red to even bright orange! Some chameleons have even been witnessed displaying spots or stripes. Researchers are still not 100% certain the reason behind the change. Is it so they can hide from predators? Signal to each other? Maybe they can’t control it, it’s just an unconscious reflection of their internal processes. It could quite possibly be some combination of factors. Whatever the reason, this creature doesn’t need to wear anything else for a costume.

Mossy Leaf-Tailed Gecko

Look very closely at this photo, and you’ll be able to see that there’s actually a gecko sitting on top of the log.

This gecko has not one, but two plants in its name, rightfully so. The mossy leaf-tailed gecko has flaps of skin around its jaw and body, giving it the “mossy” moniker, and a large flat tail that can be disguised as a leaf. Like the chameleon, the mossy leaf-tailed gecko is capable of changing its skin color, but not to the same degree. It mainly disguises itself as branches or bark in order to hide from predators. If you’re trying to find the best tree costume out there, look no further than the mossy leaf-tailed gecko.

Decorator Crab

Credit: Ed Bierman
This crab has decided to wear a costume of seaweed, and it won’t take it off until the animal molts its shell, after which it will start collecting trinkets to wear all over again.

This name refers to a variety of species of crab which costume themselves with bits of seaweed and other ocean creatures. Decorator crabs will select small pieces of flora and attach them to Velcro-like bristles on their back. Some crabs will actually use other living organisms, such as anemones, to ward off other predators. Interestingly enough, when the crabs molt and leave their shell behind to grow a new one, they will take the anemones off and place them on their new shell, almost like pets! Each crab wears a unique “costume” and chooses to decorate it in its own way! Who knew crabs have been celebrating Halloween for years already?

For most people, Halloween costumes are an excuse to have fun and dress up, but not for these creatures. Out in the wild, these disguises are integral to their survival, either making sure they get their next meal, or not end up as someone else’s. If you decide to dress up, be inspired by the bounty of costumes found outside!

October 31st, 2017|Tags: , , |0 Comments

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