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The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature

#4. Leafy Sea Dragons Look Like Seaweed

lecates

Believe it or not, the image below is of an actual animal, not something that should be wrapped around your sushi. The leafy sea dragon is a close relative of the sea horse, and clear evidence that nature is a fan of Dr. Seuss. Dragon on the left, plant on the right:

Fastily, Tom Corser 2009
We still contend that something should either breathe fire or eat virgins to be considered a dragon.

To avoid all the soulless killing machines that inhabit its watery abode, the sea dragon's fins have evolved into leafy appendages that don't really do anything except look like seaweed, and so the fish just kind of floats around. The fins that do move are almost completely transparent, so they're very hard to see, giving the illusion that it's just drifting around aimlessly. So nothing is going to take a bite out of it unless it wants a mouthful of seaweed. So all it has to worry about is whatever does want a mouthful of seaweed. But hell, you can't think of everything.

@Ta-graphy
"The seaweed is always greener in somebody else's lake."

#3. Orchid Mantises Are Fabulous

Luc Viatour

Praying mantises, in general, are goddamn freaky-looking monsters with giant scythes for arms that are apparently capable of even killing snakes. But then there are some that took a different route to fashion and traded fearsome for fabulous!

Phillip Psurek

It's difficult to find, but in the middle of this picture is the orchid mantis, an African insect that evolved legs shaped like petals and coloring to match its preferred flower disguise. Each one has a unique outfit to hide in different orchids and pretend it's not going to rip your face off.

Francesco Tomasinelli, Isopoda.net
"No, seriously. Sniff me."

There is something fundamentally unsettling about a creature that wears a dress to trick its prey. We still don't know whether to scream or buy it a drink.

Francesco Tomasinelli, Isopoda.net
Above: The only corsage that attaches directly to your flesh.

#2. Cuttlefish Look Like Whatever They Want

prilfish

A while back, we told you about the cuttlefish's amazing ability to instantly alter it's color and texture in a way that's on par with modern flat screen television technology. One of the best mimics in the animal kingdom, the cuttlefish can blend in with pretty much anything around it.

Nick Hobgood
Scientists are studying their skin to design the world's least effective underpants.

Well, researchers have now found that cuttlefish can also contort their bodies and limbs to further counterfeit just about anything you put in front of them, including photographs. Here it's copying the look of some cheap plastic aquarium decor:

National Geographic
You should see it do the diver.

They used plastic to make sure it wasn't operating off of some chemical cue from a real plant. When a biologist held up a picture of it, the cuttlefish did the same thing. Then when researchers plopped one into a tank with wallpaper made from two-dimensional stripes, this happened.

National Geographic
It's like somebody shone a prison-break searchlight on it!

While scientists previously thought cuttlefish might be using touch and other senses to discern their surroundings, they've now discovered that the squidlike animal actually has incredible eyesight, which gives them the ability to mimic their surroundings with high-def precision. Something else they discovered? The cuttlefish is apparently blind to certain colors. When put in a tank with blue and white tiles, the thing just sat there looking like a douche.

Marine Biological Laboratory
Avatar was not wildly popular among cuttlefish.

#1. Treehoppers Wear Tiny Costumes

S.E. Thorpe

Treehoppers are the cosplayers of the insect world -- if insects held their own comic book conventions, these guys would show up to ruin everything. Mainly because their costumes are built in -- they have modified wings that they use as props to look like other insects. So on the left, you can see one "wearing" an ant costume, and on the right, you see the same appendages dressed up to look like a wasp.

Light Mediation
Their white Anglo-Saxon Protestant disguises are even more unsettling.

There are several species of treehopper, and they appear as things like tree thorns, leaves, gaping jaws and various insects. Then sometimes we don't know what the hell they're supposed to be.

Velo Steve, Light Mediation
Above: Treehoppers disguised as a thorn and ... the letter C?

These odd wing designs are called "helmets," and scientists have no idea what they're for. All we can figure out is that insects in the distant past had an extra set of wings on their heads, and these guys alone retained them to remodel into fancy hats. Insect researchers have helpfully drawn up a chart so that we can collect the whole set.


"Gotta catch 'em alllllllll!!"

For more ways we'll never see the animal uprising coming, check out The 9 Most Mind-blowing Disguises in the Animal Kingdom. Or discover The 6 Most Badass Murder Weapons in the Animal Kingdom.

And stop by LinkSTORM to see how Cracked.com is preparing to serve our animal overlords.

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