Have you ever wondered if your eyes are deceiving you? It’s true, sometimes things aren’t as they might appear…
When I was a kid, I used to be very wary of hoverflies, because I thought they were wasps – and who could blame me, when you see those familiar yellow and black stripes that do a good impression of that infamous summer picnic pest aka the common social wasp. Those clever hover flies don that same vest, even though they don’t sting and are far better natured (in my opinion!) – they’re using the wasp’s uniform as a way to keep predators at bay – smart!
And hoverflies aren’t alone when it comes to a disguise or two – there are lots of others out there, who are engaging in a spot of imitation. Slithering up is the King snake – it cleverly uses bright red band markings to make it look scarily similar to the very venomous Coral snake – except the King snake is again totally harmless. Apparently the way to tell them apart is “red on black, friend to Jack (the King snake), red on yellow, can kill a fellow (the Coral snake)” – although I’d suggest not getting close enough to find out!!
Another smart thinking creature to use mimicry is the rare Ladybird (or Ladybug) spider. The males of these little guys have bright red bodies and black spots – exactly like the Ladybird beetles, who use this bright regalia to warn others they are not a tasty teatime treat, but are in fact poisonous. The spiders pretend to be poisonous too to stop them being snapped up as a handy snack.
You might have a hard job finding the unassuming Katydid – it does a masterful impression of a green leaf; but these critters can play a cunning trick by pretending to be female cicadas – when the male cicada comes looking for a dinner date, it ends up being dinner instead!
Even youngsters can get in on the act – the Hawk moth caterpillar has created quite a costume for itself – it bears an uncanny resemblance to a viper snake! This incredible disguise helps to keep it safely away from predators, to allow it to grow onto adulthood.
It’s hard to know if the four eyed butterfly fish is coming or going, because it has two false eyes on its tail, as well as two real eyes on its head. This can really confuse anything trying to pursue it, because it’s almost impossible to tell which way its heading!
You may think that with a name like the Harlequin frog, this amphibian might be a bit of a clown – but it is in fact top of the bill when it comes to deception! It can turn itself into resembling other poisonous frog species, which is a very neat trick!
Is it a fish? Is it a snake? Is it a crab? No! It’s a Mimic octopus, who will really show you how it’s done! This amazing cephalopod can turn its tentacles to not just mimicking one species – but several! These guys have been observed morphing into such masquerades as a poisonous sea snake – it sneakily hides 6 of its 8 legs and arranges the other two to look very snake like, displaying the same markings; it can also pretend to be a crab, on the lookout for love – it cons a would-be suitor into thinking they’ve met a mate, only to then turn the poor lovelorn partner into its lunch!
It can also impersonate a lion fish (holding out its tentacles to resemble the deadly spines), a jelly fish (trailing its tentacles out behind it) and a flat fish, burying itself in the sand to keep out of harm’s way. This unbelievable behaviour can help it to put off predators, capture prey and convince others its best left off the dinner menu!
So there you go – don’t believe everything your eyes tell you!!