Leaf-Tailed Geckos Are Basically Invisible

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature

Believe it or not, there is a lizard in the below picture:

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature

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:

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature

Oh. Gross.

It's pretty obvious, right? So where did it go?

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature

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 ...

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature

... and some of them look like dead leaves ...

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature

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?

Frogfish Hunt With Fake Lures

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature
Robert Weilgorski, Wikipedia Commons

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.)

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature

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.

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature

"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.

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature
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.

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature

"Be careful, Carl, I'm pretty sure that's the face-eating type of coral."

"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:

April Nobile / Antweb, Thiago G. Carvalho

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.

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature

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.

Tawny Frogmouths Look Like Tree Stumps

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature
Wikipedia Commons

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.

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature
Snapper's Pics

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:

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature

"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.

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature
Wikipedia Commons

"Ohhhhhhhhhh my foot's asleep."

Leafy Sea Dragons Look Like Seaweed

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature

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:

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature
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.

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature

"The seaweed is always greener in somebody else's lake."

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!

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature
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.

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature
Francesco Tomasinelli, Isopoda.net

"No, seriously. Sniff me."

Cuttlefish Look Like Whatever They Want

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature

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.

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature
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:

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature
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.

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature
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.

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature
Marine Biological Laboratory

Avatar was not wildly popular among cuttlefish.

Treehoppers Wear Tiny Costumes

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature
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.

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature
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.

The 8 Most Mind Blowing Disguises in Nature
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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