8 Sea Creatures with the Most Impressive Camouflage

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For these animals camouflage has been the best advantage in the constant struggle between predator and prey. Here are 8 sea creatures with the best camouflage:

8. Crocodilefish

The crocodilefish, also known as De Beaufort’s flathead or Giant flathead belongs to the Scorpaeniforme order. It is a fish of medium size that can grow up to 19.7 inches with an average recorded size of 13.8 inches. It may be found in the western Pacific Ocean, in the coastal waters of the Philippines, Borneo, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia and Palau.

Crocodilefish have elongated bodies with particularly flat heads that almost resemble duck bills. They dwell at the bottom of shallow waters, often camouflaging themselves on semi-exposed or sheltered reefs. The intensity of the coloration that adults have on their bodies varies in accordance to their surroundings. The mosaic-like pattern on their bodies consists of brown to beige or green to grey spots which are separated by interlaced blue lines providing them with an ideal camouflage for their surroundings.

Their globulous eyes have lappets at their rear which further aid the camouflaging ability by breaking the outlines of the black iris. Crocodilefish are ambush predators that take advantage of their camouflage to capture their prey which mostly consists of crustaceans and small fish.  

7. Penguins

Penguins are an example of a camouflage technique known as countershading. Their black and white pattern helps them to hide from both predators and prey when they are in the water.

Countershading is among the most common types of marine camouflage. The darker top half of the animal blends with the dark waters below it while the lighter half blends in with the waters above it that are lit by the sun. The high contrast present on the penguin’s body makes it one of the best known examples of animals that use countershading as camouflage.

6. Leafy Sea Dragon

The leafy sea dragon is the only member of the Psychodurus genus in the Syngnathidae family. It may be found along the western and southern coasts of Australia. Its body is covered in long leaf-like protrusions, a feature that gives this marine fish the ‘leafy’ part of its name.

The ‘dragon’ component of its name is derived from the resemblance it bears to the mythical creature. The leafy sea dragon’s appearance offers an excellent form of camouflage due to the lobes of skin that grow on its body. These characteristics give it the appearance of seaweed. Through its movements, the leafy sea dragon is capable of maintaining the camouflage while it is swimming as well. It moves through the water in a way that creates the illusion of a floating piece of seaweed.

The leafy sea dragon also has the ability of changing its color so that it can blend in. Diet, location, age and stress level are factors that typically influence this ability. The protrusions that give the leafy sea dragon its remarkable camouflage do not play a role in its propulsion. Instead, this marine creature propels itself using a pectoral fin on the ridge of its neck and a dorsal fin on its back that is located closer to its tail. 

5. Decorator Crab

Decorator crabs are several species of crabs that belong to the Majoidea superfamily. These creatures are known for using materials from their environments in order to hide from predators. They can also ward off predators by attaching noxious organisms to their body. These organisms display various warning signs of their toxicity, such as bright colors, in order to discourage potential predatory attacks, a concept known as aposematism.

One researcher described a situation in which specimens of Hyas araneus, also known as the great spider crab, were moved from an environment where they had all camouflaged themselves using pieces of seaweed. Once they were introduced into other environments they adapted their choices of camouflage after only one night.

One of the crabs had covered itself with a dense bush one had used gravel and small shells to decorate itself while another had broken off pieces of other marine animals and used them to camouflage itself. Some decorator crab species are particularly specialized in what they choose as camouflage. Some only use sponges while others use noxious algae. Stenocionops furcata decorates its carapace with a stinging sea anemone called Calliactis tricolor. This offers protection against predators through aposematism due to the sea anemone’s colors and its ability of releasing orange or white threads armed with stinging explosive cells called cnidocytes.

Other decorator crab species are known for tearing off pieces of seaweed with their claws chewing them and then rubbing the result on their bodies. The curved hairs that some species have on their bodies all make it easier for them to attach the camouflage material. 

4. Deep-sea Hatchetfish

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Deep-sea hatchetfish, also known as marine hatchetfish, are found in the temperate, subtropical and tropical waters of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. They range in size from the Polyipnus danae, with an average length of 1.1 inches to the Giant hatchetfish, which is around 4.7 inches long.

Much like its name would indicate, this creature is found in deeper parts of the ocean, at depths ranging from 160 to 4,900 feet. Its name is derived from the fact that it is extremely compressed laterally, only millimeters thick, with its physical appearance bearing a resemblance to a hatchet with the thorax as the ‘blade’. Deep-sea hatchetfish have bioluminescent photophores which are light producing organs.

Their camouflaging technique involves the use of counter-illumination to escape predators that lurk in the deeper parts of the sea. This involves matching the intensity of the light they produce to that of the light penetrating the water from above the surface level. By doing so, the deep-sea hatchetfish does not appear darker to the predators that see it from below, as they reduce the contrast of their silhouettes against the background of their environment.

The fact that the deep-sea hatchetfish’s body body is extremely flattened from side to side and very silvery constitutes a form of anti-predatory protection known as reflective camouflage. It almost resembles aluminum foil, with mirror-like microscopic structures on its body that enable it to reach almost one-hundred percent reflection.

3. Big Blue Octopus       

Octopus cyanea, also known as Cyane’s octopus, day octopus or the big blue octopus is an octopus from the Octopodidae family. It is found both in the Indian and Pacific Oceans in the reefs and shallow waters of regions that range from the eastern coast of Africa to Hawaii. It is a predator with a diet consisting mainly of mollusks, shrimp, fish and crabs.

Unlike most octopus species, which are nocturnal, the big blue octopus is diurnal. It is considered to be a crepuscular animal as it mostly hunts at dusk or dawn. Because it lives in shallow waters or on coral reefs and hunts by day, the big blue octopus has a remarkable camouflaging ability that that enables it to not only frequently change its color but also the texture and patterns of its skins.

A researcher noted having observed an octopus cyanea that, over the course of seven hours, had changed its appearance over a thousand times. While moving across the seabed, the octopus changes its appearance and coloring to match the substrate below. The octopus controls the chromatophores, which are pigment-containing cells on its body, with its brain. The colors and textures are changed almost instantaneously.

The big blue octopus will sometimes produce ‘passing clouds’ displays wherever it is near its prey. This creates the illusion of a dark shadow that passes above its prey which may cause it to move incautiously.     

2. Mimic Octopus

This Indo-Pacific octopus species can use its highly flexible body with the purpose of impersonating other creatures. It can also change its texture and color to blend into the environment. It uses pigment sacs known as chromatophores to blend with nearby coral or algae-encrusted rocks.

The mimic octopus is the only known marine animal that is able to take the shape of such a wide variety of objects and animals. It uses this shape-shifting ability to capture prey as well as evade or intimidate predators. Researchers have discovered that its range includes approximately 15 different local species. It uses a camouflage technique known as aggressive mimicry in order to hunt its prey. It may choose, for example, to mimic a crab as an apparent mate only to then devour potential suitors.

Unlike most octopuses, which tend to use coral reefs as shelter, the mimic octopus also prefers river mouths and estuaries. When in open waters, it is at a lower risk of predation due to its ability of imitating poisonous fish. Many animals use mimicry as a survival strategy. Certain fly species have black and yellow stripes across their bodies in the same pattern that bees have, thus discouraging potential predators. The mimic octopus, however, is currently the only known species with such a broad range and the first of its kind to possess mimicry as an active ability.

The exact number of species it can mimic is not known, but most of them are poisonous. Lionfish, sea snakes, flatfish and jellyfish are among the most common animals that this octopus imitates. Depending on the creatures it encounters, the mimic octopus will decide which mimicry behavior is best suited for each situation. In one case researchers observed the behavior of mimic octopuses in an area that was abundant in flounder fish. They mimicked the swimming actions, speed, duration, shape and even the coloration of the flounders.

1. Cuttlefish

Sepia officials, also known as cuttlefish, are often referred to as the ‘chameleons of the sea’ for their ability of blending into their surroundings by quickly changing their colors. This creature’s skin has three optical components, which are arranged vertically, that enable it to reflect or absorb light. The leucophore that uniformly reflects light over the whole visible spectrum, the iridophore, which is a reflector consisting of stacked thin films and the cromatophore. In response to visual information, cuttlefish use the neutrally-controlled chromatophore to change the pattern or the color of their skin.

Researchers have discovered that these cells contain luminescent protein nanostructures that give the cuttlefish its ability to quickly make elaborate changes in pigmentation. As it blends into the environment, each chromatophore can increase its surface area by up to five hundred percent. The pigment granules within the chromatophore can reflect, absorb and even emit light. Their ability to rapidly their skin color and patterns is also used for communication and signaling other cuttlefish constituting, what many researchers have referred to, as a type of visual language. Even though it is colorblind, the cuttlefish has a sophisticated visual system, similar to that of human beings in the way that it can perceive contours and edges as relevant information. It then adopts its camouflage accordingly.

Its dynamic patterning and the speed with which it change it make the cuttlefish unique among camouflaging animals. Researchers have been studying these creatures extensively and many believe that understanding their abilities could ultimately lead to military innovations and new materials in paints, cosmetics, electronics and other consumer items.

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