In nature, surviving and reproducing is the name of the game, and every advantage – such as natural camouflage – helps. Animals that can hide from their predators, keep from becoming food. Animals that hide from their prey, can better hunt for food. In each case, it is a battle to survive, and camouflage techniques such background matching, disruptive coloration, countershading, and mimicry are instrumental.
Background Matching: The animal’s color is similar to the color of its environment. Young Decorator Crabs (Loxorhynchus crispatus) camouflage their carapace with algae and small animals. They abandon this distinctive habit when they grow larger. Decorator Crabs achieve their camouflage by using hooked setae, which are Velcro-like hairs on the carapace. These crabs have even been observed moving decorations to their new carapace after molting.
Disruptive Coloration: The animal’s color patterns break up its natural outline.
Swell Sharks (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum) live in rocky areas. Their blotchy patterns help camouflage them within the rocky crevices of their habitat. At the Sea Center, visit the Shark Pool and get an up-close encounter with a Swell Shark. Also look for the Swell Shark egg cases and see how this species camouflage their progeny.
Mimicry: The animal imitates the appearance of objects, plants, or other animals or elements from the environment. Kelp Crabs (Pugettia spp.) stay in one spot for hours grazing for food in the kelp, which makes them vulnerable to predators. The color and shape of Kelp Crabs resemble kelp, which help them to blend in where they live. They often pose with a blade of kelp attached to their rostrum (the front part of the crab).