Three amazing examples of camouflage (no nightjars)

April 5, 2014 • 12:59 pm

JAC: Thank Ceiling Cat that Matthew has—at least temporarily—gone off cryptic nightjars. But he’s still fascinated by mimicry, and gives us several nice examples. I had no idea that there were leaf fish, and the modification of their behavior is as impressive as the modification of their shape and color (and that eye stripe is cool).

In fact, these are all great examples which I intend to steal for my lectures on mimicry. But on to Matthew’s post:

by Matthew Cobb

These three examples of animal camouflage have popped up in my Tw*tter feed over the past few days.

First, these amazing Amazonian Leaf Fish. I’m not sure who took the original photo. It was credited on Tw*tter by @MostlyOpenOcean to one David R, a NZ fish fiend who’s building an amazing Amazonian tank, but it also appears here. Can the original photographer step forward to be credited?



Amazonian Leaf Fish are really vicious ambush predators, as this video shows (sorry about the subtitles, though some readers might appreciate them):

Next, the amazing Bird Poo Frog, Theloderma asperum, snapped by Jodi Rowley. See her amazing photos here:


According to Wikipedia (so it MUST be true), this frog is also known as the pied warty frog or the hill garden bug-eyed frog. It’s about 3 cm long, lives in tree hollows in south-east Asia and is not on any endangered list (other than being vulnerable to the chytrid fungus that is threatening all amphibian populations). According to the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, it is rarely seen in nature.

Finally, I give you this excellent snake which is in fact a caterpillar – apparently the Hemeroplanes triptolemus caterpillar, which lives in Mexico, Central and South America. The snake head is formed by the underside (ventral surface) of the caterpillar’s head. Photo by Carolina Gutiérrez C.:

BkY7J-dCQAAcgXZh/t: @mwilsonsayres, @realscientists and @ziyatong

15 thoughts on “Three amazing examples of camouflage (no nightjars)

  1. I couldn’t get past the giant Amazon tank and what I think is a killifish in one picture!

  2. The snaky caterpillar is great. I’ve seen a snake-mimicking caterpillar in Costa Rica with head spines that resemble fangs. (Mimicry ≠ Camouflage)

    1. Looks like a dipsadine ‘colubrid’ such as Imantodes, rather than a tree boa or arboreal pitviper, but verisimilitude rather than taxonomic specificity is probably the important factor.
      (Unless it’s merely a coincidence: there’s usually someone who comments on these mimicry posts expressing radical skepticism, which is stupid, sorry)

      The variety of colours in the handful of leaf fish reminds me of the colour polymorphism in the aquatic, fish-eating snake Cerberus australis (Australian Bockadam), e.g. here. Clearly the work of the same Designer (natural selection).

      1. Yes, I think the designer was intelligent to make the fishes different colors, so their prey would not learn to avoid a leaf of a certain color that was creeping up on them. 😉

        1. It’d actually be interesting to compare the molecular pigments in both.

          …and, thinking further, to get some idea of the visual systems of the prey. I could see the leaf fish’s shape and / or motion being the camouflage for the prey, and the coloration being how it evades its own predators, or some other variation on that theme.


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