What do you think of when you hear the word camouflage? Perhaps a soldier’s clothes. Maybe the Humvee he drives or the fighter jet he flies. Possibly an animal’s ability to blend in. If you said the 3rd answer then you’re on the right track. No matter how much money the powers that be spends on military clothing and cloaking through the use of camouflage, they can’t begin to even compare to some of the world’s natural camouflage artists. Just like subway has subway artists, nature gets to have camouflage artists and they are absolutely amazing at what they do.
Hidden in plain sight
One of nature’s most clever tricks to pull is to hide right in front of your face without you even knowing it. The peringuey adder (bitis peringueyi) is hands down the best snake at blending in to it’s surroundings. This particular type of sidewinder likes to partially bury itself in the sand and wait for unsuspecting prey to come too close. Although they are known to feed on geckos and lizards they will certainly bite a human who ventures too near. They are venomous vipers and you’re probably best off to just leave them alone and walk away.
Not just animals in hiding
Another amazing creature who uses its surroundings to mask itself is the common baron caterpillar(euthalia aconthea). The ingenious colors and markings on this bug helps it blend in so well that if you aren’t looking for one you likely won’t even know it’s there. The common baron caterpillar cleverly matches the looks of leaves on its favorite dwelling: the mango tree. The caterpillar has a flattened out look to it, with a wide body that spreads across the top of the leaf. Each of its legs resembles a branch with lots of tiny leaves on it. The baron’s back has a yellow line traveling down the middle to mimic the vein of a leaf.
Masters of illusion
We’ve seen the desert, we’ve seen the lush fruitlands, what about the oceans? Surely there’s some cloaking going on down under… and there is! There’s a few ocean dwellers in the cephalopod class that have what are known as chromatophores. Similar to how chameleons change their color, animals such as the octopus have their skin covered in thousands of independantly controlled color changing cells. The octopus controls the colors with its nervous system which creates highly complex changes further exacerbated by reflective cells called iridophores which mirrors the octopus’ surrounding environment. This amazing combination of cells also enables the octopus to go so far as to match textures of it’s surroundings. This makes it visually impossible to differentiate between a rock and itself. Check out this video and prepare to be amazed.
Humans are jealous
With all the technological advances in cloaking technology available, we still simply cannot match how amazingly well some animals in the world naturally blend in. Can you imagine the possibilities if we could have a suit that would make us virtually invisible by way of mimicking everything from jungle canopies to urban concrete walls. The military would be able to pull some of the best covert operations ever if there was a significantly reduced chance of being spotted. Being able to completely infiltrate an enemy’s camp without them seeing you coming could and would be crucial for survival in some situations. You could also use it for defensive as well as offensive camouflage by creating some sort of rooftop to an encampment that matches the surroundings colors and textures, and would completely cloak your base from any pesky spy drones or planes flying overhead. We’ve already taken a few pages out of the books of nature’s best camouflaged creatures with things like the sniper’s ghillie suit but we still aren’t quite up to par. Nanotechnology is getting better and better by the day and I can imagine wearing clothes that both sees and displays the world around us and matches up by using thousands of microscopic cameras and displays.