Say the word camouflage to a naturalist and she tends to think immediately of the chameleon, a small lizard that changes color to blend in with its surroundings. But the chameleon is far from alone in its ability to adapt by disguising itself in response to changes in its environment or to danger. A variety of mammals, birds, insects, spiders, and denizens of the deep have developed comparable traits.
Camouflage, however, is not the only trick Mother Nature has up her evolutionary sleeve. Deception is everywhere in the animal kingdom, adding magic, mystery, and depth to our experiences in nature. Understanding the defensive and offensive measures creatures employ gives us a deeper appreciation of the world around us.
To children, perhaps, all grasshoppers look more or less alike. In basic configuration, in fact, they are possessed of a certain bilateral symmetry, with two eyes, two large jumping legs, and so forth. But grasshoppers certainly are not all uniformly green, as I imagined when I was growing up in Missouri. Some grasshoppers are patterned to resemble so closely the sand they perch on that you can’t see them until they jump, startling you with their sudden motion.
Protective coloration in the form of camouflage is one of nature’s best tricks. The wings of some butterflies, like the curve-toothed geometer, appear to be leaves complete with central veins. This fine attribute allows them to blend into the foliage on a tree…