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An animal uses camouflage to blend in with its environment. Camouflage is the use of color, pattern, and shape to look like the things around you.

Predators, or hunters, will use camouflage to help them catch food. Prey, or the ones being hunted, will use camouflage to keep from being caught. Many animals use color to help them hide. The polar bear's white fur keeps him hidden in the snow.  Grasshoppers and lynx spiders use their green color to hide among the leaves and stems of plants. Crab spiders use color when they are hunting. See how the crab spider in the photo uses its yellow color to blend in while it waits for an insect to land.

Its yellow color helps this crab spider to hide while it hunts. (Photographer: ©2004 Collin Bonde) Click here to enlarge the picture

Some animals, like the octopus, can even change their color to match their environment. The octopus can also change the texture of its skin to look bumpy like the rocks where it is hiding. The walking stick and the skeleton shrimp also copy both the shapes and colors of the plants. You have to look closely to tell which are the branches and which are the animals.

Pattern is another way of using camouflage. The stripes on a tiger blend in well when it is hidden in the tall grass. The halibut, or flat fish, has spotted skin that helps it to blend in when it buries itself in the sand.

This jumping spider uses color and shape to mimic the ants that it hunts. (Photographer: © 2004 ChartChaiMeeSungNin) Click here to enlarge the picture

Mimicry is using shape, color, and pattern to look like another animal, often one that is dangerous. The monarch butterfly tastes bad to birds, so they will not eat it. The viceroy butterfly mimics, or copies, the pattern and color of the monarch butterfly's wings so that birds will leave it alone, too. Some caterpillars and fish have large spots on their bodies. From a distance, these spots look like the eyes of a much larger animal. The jumping spider in the photo mimics the shape and color of the red ants that it hunts.

There are two activities that go with this lesson. We show a sample of the butterfly camouflage page with directions that you can print. The second activity has two pages that you can download. Children first read about the insects and spiders that are hiding in the garden. Have them color the garden and the insects according to the directions. Then discuss who is hiding and who is not.

The following sites offer more information on camouflage and mimicry.



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Camouflage Activities

Hide And Seek

Find the critters in the garden picture and color it yourself! This activity is from the Rainbow Web CD-ROM. (1.14MB PDF file)

Camouflage It!

See how many butterflies you can find with this fun activity using newspaper ads. Then make your own camouflage page. This is a new activity not found on the Rainbow Web CD-ROM.

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