The 9 Most Mind-blowing Disguises in the Animal Kingdom
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.
The Bird Shit Spider
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.
The Clam's Fish Decoy
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.
Spiders Pretending to be Ants
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.
Caterpillars Playing Snake
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.
Flies Undercover as Ant Larvae
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.
Moths Pretending to be Spiders
Metalmark moths of the Brenthia genus find that the best way to avoid getting killed by spiders is to wear the enemy uniform.
Indiana Jones found the same technique useful with the Nazis.
Most spiders don't seem like that much of a threat to something that can simply fly away, but nature threw them a curve ball when it invented jumping spiders.
To deal with the threat of agile spiders, this moth can make itself look like one of the spiders that hunt them. How does a moth with wings mimic an arachnid with eight legs? As you can see above, it's not perfect, but spiders are idiots.
When a metalmark is confronted by its arch nemesis the jumping spider, it arranges its wings to mimic the spider's pose, looking like a bigger, meaner, spider gangster. Depending on the racism of the attacking spider, it will either back right off to avoid conflict, or just cross to the other side of the street.
Bugs Pretending to be Plants
Believe it or not, there is an insect in the above picture. One sure-fire way to hide yourself in the forest is to just become part of the morass of inanimate plant matter that's spread all over the place, and leaf insects are so adept that they even mimic leaves that have been partially eaten by caterpillars for added realism. Some zoos won't even bother displaying them because people think that the exhibit is empty.
Then we have its cousin, the stick insect, which sways back and forth to mimic the sway of branches in the breeze.
And the dead-leaf butterfly:
All of which leads us to the conclusion that you shouldn't touch anything in nature if you don't want it to skitter up your shirt sleeve. Also, you don't need much of an imagination to apply for the job of "person who names insects."
Plants Looking Like Bugs
Flowers need bees to spread their pollen, so one of their most important tasks (and they don't have many) is to find ways to appeal to the bee demographic. Most achieve this by shilling tasty nectar, but the Bee Orchid of the west Mediterranean has found a method that doesn't affect its bottom line. As they say in the industry, sex sells.
The color, shape and texture make this flower look like a female bee, and it also releases pheromones to attract the male bees. Soon, the males begin to awkwardly stumble over pick-up lines and flip through their PUA handbooks. During the furious dry-humping that ensues, the bees wind up covered in pollen, which they will then transfer to the next bee flower they try to inseminate.
Other orchids display the shape and coloration of different insects too, like these wasps, which seem to be trying to initiate some kind of gang bang.
The Mimic Octopus Imitates Whatever it Damn Well Wants
So the mimic octopus can spread out two tentacles to look like a snake (specifically, a toxic sea snake). That's pretty cool, right?
But now here it is imitating a foul-tasting flatfish:
And here it is doing its impression of a shrimp with the touch of death:
Other animals are lucky to evolve just one good disguise, maybe two on a good eon. Thaumoctopus mimicus on the other hand is the first animal ever discovered to take on the shape and behavior of many different animals for different situations. The above is just a small sample. It's also been known to play a seahorse, stingray, anemone, starfish, lionfish, crab and probably Cthulhu.
Inhabiting only the naturally murky waters off the coast of Indonesia, this tentacled ninja is so good at not being an octopus that it eluded human discovery until 1998. Even now, it could be anywhere. In fact, before you click away from this article, you might want to take a hard look at that mouse your hand is resting on.
For more animals you won't see before its too late, check out 7 Terrifying Creatures You'll Never See Coming and The 6 Deadliest Creatures (That Can Fit In Your Shoe).
And stop by Linkstorm to get rid of the willies you just acquired.
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