There are few things freakier than animals or insects who learn to imitate their surroundings in such a way that one of them could be on your damned pillow before you'd notice it. So let's look at a bunch of them right now.
NOTE: Many of the below pictures look fake as hell. Unfortunately, these are real photos of disguises so weird and utterly convincing, you won't believe you're looking at real animals until they're right behind you.
We swear we are not making this up.
Hailing from Spider Capital of the World, Australia, this critter has found a clever method of hiding from predatory birds. Well, as clever as "looking like poop" can be. The bird-dropping spider is a method actor from the Keanu Reeves school of acting, as its "method" is to sit around motionless. The difference being the spider has been typecast as a turd.
Birds are adept enough at finding fresh food that they don't have to scrounge around in their own droppings, so this is actually one of the best places to hide in plain sight. While that's great news for the spider, the rest of us have to live out the rest of our lives knowing that the next time we're annoyed to find bird poop on our collar, it might turn out to be something a million times worse.
Count the fish in the above photo. The actual number is exactly one less than you think.
We have to say, we feel sorry for everything that lives in the ocean. The Little Mermaid was totally lying to you. Rather than funky Caribbean beats and singing crabs, life under the sea is like something out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Nothing is as it seems. For instance this fish, the one next to the clam...
...is not a fish. What we're seeing here is a broken-rays mussel; a freshwater mollusk whose fleshy lips come together as a perfect replica of a minnow.
Source: Unio Gallery.
It looks like a tasty treat for larger carnivores, but it's actually an egg sac filled with horrifying parasitic larvae that explode in your face and burrow inside you.
If we lived in the ocean, we'd probably swear off eating fish all together, just to avoid the risk. After all, there are plenty of other things to eat in the ocean, like these delicious insect-looking things:
Source: Unio Gallery.
Oh wait, those aren't insects, they're the eggs of the fluted kidneyshell mollusc, and burrowing parasites explode from their eyes. Maybe we'll just order a pizza.
Whether they're hiding from predators, or just like the taste of ants and prefer to move incognito, lots of spiders have evolved to look so similar to ants that you can barely tell the difference until they're eating your skull. Seriously, let's play a game of "ant or spider" and see if you can tell which of these are which:
We fess up, it was a trick question. There are no ants in the above photos. But by far the weirdest is the male Myrmarachne plataleoides.
There aren't two of them there. That's one spider. It has oversized jaws to spar with other males and show off to the females, but since the ants they're imitating don't have such monstrous fangs, the jaws themselves are disguised as an entire second ant. Holy shit! It's like having balls so huge you have to push them around in a stroller disguised as a baby.
From now on, you can be sure that every time a stranger shows up on our doorstep, we'll be counting their legs before we let them inside.
Nature pulled a dick move on the butterfly. Before you earn your wings, you have to spend your infancy as a slow-moving tube of meat in a world crawling with meat-loving predators. So, how can an enterprising caterpillar discourage the hoards? By masquerading as something that's actually dangerous.
Yes, all of those are caterpillars. When they become frightened, they retract their heads backward into themselves, causing that bulge that looks like the head of a snake. The snake "eyes" are just spots on the caterpillar's sides. So when a predator has a taste for this:
They get fooled into thinking they're looking at this:
Some caterpillars even go the extra mile by extending appendages from the top of their head to mimic a forked snake tongue, making it look like a snake that's about to strike ...
... in the most adorable way possible. Man, that guy just better hope he doesn't run into any creatures who prey on Yoshis.
That's army ant larvae up there. Army ants are something very few animals want to mess with, as they're essentially a nomad swarm of all-consuming murder. Instead of building a nest for their helpless, grub-like larvae, these notorious insects just carry them around as they go, piling them up in the center of the swarm when they tuck in for the night. One thing in this pile, however, is never growing up to be an ant.
This is a "myrmecophilous" (ant-loving) phorid fly, related to the ordinary fruit fly. It's not a fly larva, mind you, but an adult, female fly that just happens to have no wings and no legs. On one end is her tiny head and thorax, while the rest is just one gigantic ass.
This mooching fly gets fed, cleaned and carried around by a million Amazonian insect warriors, who murder any other bug that so much as looks at her funny--at least until they let their guard down enough for the male fly, who actually has wings, to swoop in and tap what may be the biggest booty in the insect world.