Let's face it, we all hate nature to varying degrees and for our own reasons. But surely nothing inspires loathing of the animal kingdom like the fact that its creatures are constantly trying to trick us. We have previously examined some ways creatures like to go undercover as something else, but that barely skims the surface of Mother Nature's horrible bag of tricks. For instance ...
#8. Leaf-Tailed Geckos Are Basically Invisible
Believe it or not, there is a lizard in the below picture:
Wait, is this one of those Magic Eye things?
The thing you can't see is a leaf-tailed gecko, a creature that has evolved to look like bark, leaves and twigs. It's so good at pretending to be other things that, most of the time, you can't even tell it's there when you're actively looking for it. At least, until it blinks. Here it is without the branch:
It's pretty obvious, right? So where did it go?
What is this, a snipe hunt?
These "so good at disguise it looks like Photoshop" geckos are from the island of Madagascar, which is where Mother Nature went after taking a handful of hallucinogens, producing affronts to sanity like the aye-aye and the comet moth. It also appears that everything else there is secretly a gecko somehow.
There are 10 different species of leaf-tailed geckos in Madagascar, not that you'd ever notice. Each one has developed camouflage extremely specific to its corner of the island. Some of them look like palm fronds ...
... and some of them look like dead leaves ...
Mother Nature has exceptional attention to detail when she lays off the weed.
... but none of them look like something you want to accidentally put your hand on, which is too bad, because they could literally be anywhere. Did you take a good look at that chair before you sat down?
#7. Frogfish Hunt With Fake Lures
You might need to have a second look, but there's something in this picture that isn't a lump of coral. (Hint: It's the part with the face.)
If you can call that a face.
Frogfish, or angler fish, scuttle around on every tropical ocean floor in the world except for the Mediterranean. Quite frankly, they have no right to call themselves fish, being that they don't have scales and don't even really swim, preferring to "walk" with leglike front fins. When they stop moving, they look like corals and rocks and other inanimate sea floor detritus.
"Has a clown been pooping around here?"
They want to make themselves invisible because of their unique strategy for getting food -- they have a fishing lure attached to their face.
NOAA Photo Library
Hey, frogfish, you got a little something on your ... never mind.
Imagine you're walking down the street and suddenly you see a sandwich hovering in front of you. Hovering sandwiches being your favorite kind, you reach out for it, and are instantly devoured by a nearby monster disguised as a minivan. That's what small sea creatures have to deal with every day.
"Be careful, Carl, I'm pretty sure that's the face-eating type of coral."
#6. Crab Spiders Wear Ants as Hats
"Turtle ants" don't actually look anything like turtles. They're a mean-looking black ant native to South America. Likewise, the "crab spider" doesn't look anything like a crab, but it does look an awful lot like a turtle ant.
Ant on the left, spider on the right:
The ants are the spider's primary food, and so it's to the spider's benefit to look similar so that it can infiltrate its prey's society. But there's one problem ... spiders have two body segments, ants have three. It's like if a spider evolved to infiltrate human society but could only manage to look like a pair of legs and a lower torso. But the crab spider does have an elegant solution to this. And by elegant, we mean murderous and terrifying.
Ant on the left, spider on the right ... probably.
To complete the disguise, it carries around the corpse of a victim for use as both a protective shield and to appear to onlookers as though it's a worker ant carrying around one of his fallen brethren. In short, by grasping the neck of its lifeless prey, it appropriates the dead ant's head and pretends it's its own. Then it's free to wander in and around the colony with its new cadaver bonnet, killing with impunity.
#5. Tawny Frogmouths Look Like Tree Stumps
The tawny frogmouth "bird" is a hideous feathered monstrosity with a massive gaping maw and bulging yellow eyes that seem to strip the innocence from whomever they fall upon. Three guesses where this cuddly little bundle of loathsomeness hails from. Sorry, Australia, but seriously, this is starting to get out of hand.
Something this adorable is either poisonous or has a penchant for gouging eyes.
The bird is nocturnal like an owl, so it sleeps during the day when the other monsters in Australia are walking around looking for a quick snack. That's when it relies on its mottled tree bark colored feathers to keep it hidden -- it sits on a dead branch and does what's known as "stumping," which looks like this:
"How many can you find?"
It doesn't just kind of look like a branch, but actively stiffens up, contorts its body like Quasimodo and prepares for a mother of a neck cramp when it wakes up. As a result, you really can't tell it's there unless you go around punching tree branches.
"Ohhhhhhhhhh my foot's asleep."