Oct 07 2015

12 Hidden Animals You Can’t Spot

Nature is packed full of astonishing creatures with incredible abilities to adapt to their environment and thereby prolong their survival. One of the most fascinating and startling of these abilities is the natural camouflage many animals are capable of, enabling them to blend in so perfectly with their surroundings that human eyes – and those of other predators – do not even register their presence unless they know to look for it. Even then, it’s often difficult to find them unless you are looking in precisely the right place at precisely the right angle.
Let’s discover some of these ninja-like animals who can hide in plain sight:



Let’s discover some of these ninja-like animals who can hide in plain sight:
12. Pygmy Seahorse
This hard-to-spot animal is a pygmy seahorse. One of the smallest families of seahorses in the world, the pygmy seahorse measures less than 2 cm in length. Their amazing ability to camouflage themselves among the coral they inhabit is critical to their survival; pygmy seahorses live attached to a species of coral known as the Sea Fan, and can change their color to suit their environment. They also grow tubercles, small calcified bumps, all over their tiny bodies that match the shapes of their Sea Fan homes.

pygmy seahorse
11. Stick Insect [a.k.a. ‘Walking Stick’]
Probably one of the insect world’s most well-known camouflage experts, stick insects (often called ‘walking sticks’) are almost completely hidden within their natural environment. The plants that provide them with food also provide them with virtual invisibility from predators. Their scientific ordinal name comes from the Greek root word for ‘phantasm’, and they are, in fact, so phenomenally successful at hiding that they have at times become a threat to the forest or shade trees they continuously defoliate.
Thankfully, since they cannot fly, stick insect infestations are typically confined within a radius of a few hundred yards.
stick bug insect


10. Giraffe
I don’t know about you, but when I’m compiling a list of the world’s most expertly camouflaged animals, the immensely tall giraffe is not among those that spring to my mind right away. In fact, it almost seems like a joke to list camouflage as one of the giraffe’s assets; that huge creature with the incredibly long neck couldn’t possibly conceal itself anywhere, right? Wrong.
The above photograph is proof of the giraffe’s uncanny ability to hide itself in the right environment – for instance, among tall trees – in spades. Its distinctive dappled coat blends perfectly with patterns of sun and shadow among trees, and its shape lends extra concealment among the long vertical lines of mature woodlands.

hidden giraffe photo


9. Baron Caterpillar

Introducing the larval phase of the Common Baron Butterfly – the Baron Caterpillar. Native to Southeast Asia, this expert camouflage artist must take full advantage of its ability while it can; once the caterpillar pupates and becomes a butterfly, it loses its ability to hide in plain sight. Baron Caterpillars have a voracious appetite particularly for mango and cashew leaves, which results in their often being viewed as pests.
hidden baron caterpillar


8. Willow Ptarmigan
The Willow Ptarmigan lives farther north than any other bird. Its native landscape changes with the harsh seasons, and this relative of the more familiar grouse has adapted perfectly to each season: When the tundra is patchy brown during its summers, the willow ptarmigan’s feathers are equally so.
When winter approaches, however, the birds begin to molt, shedding their brownish feathers for dazzling white that conceals them against the deep white snows of the Northern winters, as in the above photo.
More amazing still, the birds have adapted to the time between summer and winter, when the snows melt in spring; while their native landscapes are patchy with melting snow and tundra, the willow ptarmigan’s feathers are white blended with patchy brown to match.

willow ptarmigan camouflage


7. Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko
Seriously, that’s really its name. You may wonder, like I did, why in the world anyone would think that such an innocent, perfectly-camouflaged creature deserves to be named after the Prince of Darkness; if so, the below photo may help to enlighten you:
Yikes, right? Right. These creatures will attack anything they can possibly overwhelm and eat, sometimes including young mice or snails along with the more usual diet of insects.
Naturally its near-perfect camouflage is its first line of defense, but if seen in spite of that, it will sometimes stare down the threat, then open its mouth very wide and emit horrifying loud cries. After that, if you haven’t been traumatized enough, it may show its red tongue and mucosa, then try to bite. No doubt these demon-children make their devil-daddy proud, unlike other geckos who have long given up Satan for a more wholesome lifestyle.

satanic leaf tailed
6. Stone Flounder
These are reported to be two photographs of the same fish. The stone flounder’s ability to adopt the patterns and colors of their background is a particularly astonishing example of protective coloration. These fish are bottom-dwellers, as is fairly obvious from their shape as well as their notorious and disconcerting way of switching both their eyeballs to the side facing up. They are startlingly fast predators, able to go from zero to WHOOOSH before their prey even senses danger.
In Japan, they’re called ‘ishigarei’, or ‘leaf fish’, though in English we call them flatfish, and they are highly coveted for sushi and sashimi when very fresh. I suppose it’s only fair, given their highly delicious flesh, that Nature disguises them so brilliantly from our hungry gaze!

stone flounder camo
5. Octopus
The octopus is one of the most fascinating creatures in the world, perhaps in part because it is notoriously shy and secretive. Octopuses (not octopi!) dislike being observed, and they are extremely intelligent; this combination makes it more difficult to research and understand them as a species.
One of the ways in which they avoid detection is by their high-speed, super-accurate camouflage. It takes less than a second for an octopus to adapt protective coloration for wherever it happens to be at that particular second. This not only helps them avoid unwanted scrutiny, it also helps them stalk and catch unsuspecting prey.

hidden camouflaged octopus


4. Katydids [a.k.a. Leaf Insects]

Katydids are perhaps best-known for the summery sound they make by rubbing their front wings together, often in great numbers that create a chorus of nocturnal song. However, singing is not their only talent: these insects are also masters of hiding in plain sight. They are nocturnal insects, so their camouflage is particularly effective during the day when they are at rest. They can resemble just about any kind of leaf they may rest on, adapting to the changing seasons by going from smooth bright green to blotchy yellowish brown.

hidden camouflaged katydid
3. Owl
Owls of all kinds are amazingly adept at blending in with their surroundings when they so choose. They, like many of our other camouflaged creatures, are nocturnal; during daylight hours, while they are at rest, this ability to hide is very convenient. During the night, when they hunt, the swiftness and silence of their flight is a sort of acoustic version of their ability to visually camouflage themselves. Their silence helps hide them from their prey until it’s too late to avoid being a meal for these amazing, intelligent birds of prey.

hidden owl camouflage
2. Tawny Frogmouth
The Tawny Frogmouth – on the rare occasions when it can actually be seen – is often mistaken for a kind of owl. Though these Australian natives are indeed related to owls, they are more like cousins than siblings, despite the many similarities they share in addition to their appearance.
Like the owl, the tawny frogmouth is a nocturnal carnivore with large eyes. Unlike the owl, who prefers to rest in secluded hollows or other hidden locations, however, the tawny frogmouth chooses to disguise itself very much out in the open. As seen in the above photo, a frogmouth practically becomes part of the tree in which it roosts.

camo tawny frogmouths
1. Hedgehog
Last but certainly not least, we come to the prickly but adorable hedgehog. Camouflage is not its primary defense, of course, not with those needles sticking out in every direction! However, the hedgehog is able to disguise itself fairly well through several methods in addition to visual camouflage.
For instance, it is thought that the hedgehog’s practice of self-anointing is a form of olfactory camouflage. Self-anointing, if you’ve never heard of it before, happens when a hedgehog encounters a new, interesting, pleasant scent. It produces a foamy saliva, then proceeds to rub the saliva on the source of the nice smell, then all over themselves. In theory, this could be the hedgehog’s way of disguising its own natural scent with other smells.
Visually, they are able to camouflage themselves as in the photo above, using their orbicularis muscle. This muscle runs along the edge of the hedgehog’s body and acts like a drawstring, enabling it to ball itself up when it feels threatened.
You may wonder why the least disguised of these creatures is in the Number One spot. The answer is simple: It’s phenomenally cute.

hidden hedgehog camouflaged