All animals use special tactics in order to survive on the planet, and camouflage is one of them. Predator or prey, each animal resorts to disguise either to kill or to protect itself. Camouflage can be of many kinds, but the commonest is matching oneself with the background, and nature’s colours —sand, brown and green — are perfect for this.
Many animals, birds and insects are masters at the art of disguise and blend themselves so well with their surroundings that it is impossible to spot them.
For instance, the stripes of tigers, rosettes of leopards or spots of cheetahs help them to mask their presence from their prey when they are in shade or hiding behind bushes. In the same way, brown-coloured nocturnal flying insects such as moths rest on tree trunks during the daytime, and remain invisible to predators who cannot make out their presence. Many lizards too have brown skin-tones that blend into the background, helping them merge with their surroundings.
But the stick insect is one of the best camouflage models on earth. This insect looks like a twig or stick and its movement is very mechanical, easily confusing it with a twig moving in the wind. Even if you look at it from close quarters, you will find it tough to differentiate it from its surroundings.
Mimicry is another type of camouflage. In this behaviour, animals look or act like another object or organism. Many insects camouflage themselves by taking the shape of leaves or merge with the cplours of flowers. Large eyespots on the wings of moths appear like big eyes of owls, so birds that prey on these moths avoid the insects suspecting them to be owls. Similarly, many non-venomous snakes mimic venomous snakes so they are viewed as dangerous by other animals that then keep safe distance from them.
On the other hand, many spiders mimic non-harmful creatures or objects like snails, beetles, flies, dry leaves, droppings of birds, debris or flower parts so that they can pounce on unsuspecting prey.
Camouflaging of an individual seems manageable, but is it possible in social animals that typically move in a herd? Zebras are an interesting example. When they migrate from one place to another, many predators lie in wait along the way. But when the zebras create an optical illusion due to their stripes, the predators cannot focus on one animal as each merges with the other looking like one big mix. It becomes tough to make out the shape of an individual zebra and therefore distracts the predator from target-setting.
Clearly, dodging to survive or to kill are both possible with camouflaging, and it is from animals that we humans have adapted camouflage uniforms for our armies.