Within the biological world, more people have likely heard of 'mimicry' or 'camouflage' than of 'crypsis', but this term is even more encompassing.
"In ecology, crypsis is the ability of an organism to avoid observation or detection by other organisms. It may be either a predation strategy or an antipredator adaptation, and methods include camouflage, nocturnality, subterranean lifestyle, transparency, and mimicry.1"
If you have ever seen a peculiar leaf stuck to your window, only to realize that it is in fact a katydid, you've been fooled by crypsis. Many animals employ camouflage or mimicry, but it is particularly fascinating within the insect world. Perhaps that's just the plant lover in me, enamored with creatures mimicking botanical forms.
Whatever it is, below are some examples from DA's invertebrate gallery to showcase a bit of this evolutionary wonder.
The most remarkable thing about katydids might not even be their "leaf veins" and twiggy legs, but the fact that often their morphology even mimics the dead, crumbling parts of a leaf.
The longest insect recorded to date was a 62.4 centimeter (2 foot!) long stick insect, found last year in China.
Treehoppers have some of the most alien appendages in the insect world, though many species look like tiny leaves or thorns, especially when congregated together on a branch.
Above are two ants... Except they're not ants. Count the legs!
Robber flies look like bumble or carpenter bees.
You might steer clear of these two, though they are nothing more than a fly (left) and a moth (right). (Best not to take chances.)
There are even moths that mimic hummingbirds! These are hummingbird clearwings.
"Birds must hunt quickly and efficiently; they must find lots of food to feed their hungry chicks and they must do it as quickly as possible to minimize their own exposure to predators. If a caterpillar looks just like a twig, a bird would have to look closely at every twig to find it. Looking like a twig, then, elevates the cost of searching beyond what the bird can afford both energetically and ecologically.2"
The orchid mantis, looking like its botanical counterpart.
This is supposed to be a feature, not a tutorial, but I accidentally brainstormed a few tips as I was compiling these photos.
I have taken entomology in the past, where being able to locate a wide variety of insect species was part of my grade, and I can tell you it's not an overnight thing. It takes a lot of time and effort, and even moreso if you are hunting down insects like these that blend in with their surroundings particularly well.
Find books and websites on entomology to discover what insect species inhabit your
area (or migrate to it). Don't despair
if you can't find them—as we have seen here, often their chances of survival are increased by their elusiveness!
As with wildlife photography, patience pays off
, and you may need a lot of it. Look for movement.
That may be obvious; insects are not, in spite of hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary changes, camouflaged 24/7. When you're trying to find a leaf or stick insect among nothing but leaves and sticks, it might only be a short trip to another bush that catches your eye. Look for something out of place.
Our brains are good at picking up on patterns, and noticing when something looks a bit off. Look for legs!
Antennae! The spiney leg of a mantis, poised to rip the head off of an unsuspecting fly!
If you have some cool insect photographs, feel free to share them with AnimalsPlantsNature
+ extra credit - a really good overview of how crypsis works within an evolutionary framework: Crypsis (Insects)