Animal Camouflage and Deception in Nature

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Animal Camouflage and Deception in Nature
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4th, 5th, 6th, 7th
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This file focuses on Animal Deceptions (blending with or resembling other backgrounds or creatures).

Camouflage (cypsis) can serve predator or prey. It basically is an adaptation of color, texture, or form (or some combination) in order to better hide an animal in the surrounding environment. Mimicry goes a step further and actually references a specific living or nonliving "model" for the mimic. Examples cover a wide spectrum, such as a non venomous snake appearing as a dangerous type, or plants which have flower parts that resemble insects in order to draw insects (ie. reacting to a mating desire). Clearly, camouflaging in mimicry overlap and interact. http://www.mothscount.org/text/102/camouflage.html

Following section dividers for "prey" and "predators," this video provides pairs of images that show how a creature can strongly contrast with, or blend into, its surroundings (using the same backgrounds). Examples are shown first with a strongly contrasting creature that is momentarily replaced by a more subtle body type (in color, pattern, or shape). Clearly the first creature might be less visible elsewhere, such as the monarch which would stand out less on an orange milkweed than the white flower shown in the first pair. But landing on white can be a disadvantage in comparison to the mottled butterfly which follows. In all cases, the "better blended" animal is the second one on the foliage, flower, or bark in the background.

You might want to get students to think about how some life forms don't rely on as much camouflage for a reason….because they have other defensive tools (explore the Monarch, Buck moth caterpillar and Lubber further to explain this, and consider how a bird might feel seeing the moving "eyes" on the Common Buckeye).

Of course beyond the garden, there are many other contexts where the same principles are on display. Internet photography (in wikimedia and other sources) will provide a teacher with insects, birds, and mammals on various gravel, sand, and other ground textures; or laying or stalking in rock formations, trees, brush, and grasslands. Large predators and herbivores can lurk or protect themselves in agricultural surroundings both as individuals and even in herds, while fish do the same in submerged aquatic places. I tried to stay with North American (or naturalized) species in appropriate backgrounds, but there are fascinating examples from other parts of the world, such as the Owl Eye butterfly and Buff-Tip moth in Europe.

You can get your students to discover that the grasshopper and praying mantis groups include some especially well disguised tropical forms, such as "walking dead leaves," and even a mantis that can pose in a position that resembles a flower!

Some butterflies also use two different appearances in the same pair of wings. You might point out the Peacock and the Blue Morpho, butterflies that are a brilliant color on the upper wing surface, but are better camouflaged when the wings are folded. Also, even "predators" can become "prey," as when wasps attack spiders, not to feed on them directly, but for consumption by the carnivorous larvae, although the adults only consume nectar.

And there is another concept, "convergence," such as the similarity between the hummingbird and hummingbird moth, which are thought to simply be using the same solution for hovering flight with nectar as a source of food. The moth even has "thermogenic" metabolism and a similar build, proboscis, and method of wing motion to the bird. However, it is less clear that either is strictly imitating the other just because they have a resemblance as seen by the human eye. Watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BVrKgTRivA

Other examples of this looser relationship (seal and porpoise in streamlined body form etc.) can be found.

Engaging videos https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdF1Q18rvrw
and http://www.chonday.com/videos/mantiswater2

Finally, a challenging project for more advanced students is outlined here: http://www.esa.org/tiee/vol/v4/experiments/insect_predation/description.html

A rich photo collection: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/198158452324765965/

See other films by DeepRiverVisions at https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Deep-River-Visions
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Animal Camouflage and Deception in Nature
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