Protective Coloration

By Dave Hanks

Animals have ways to protect themselves from potential danger. Their color is one very important way. Some colors hide, but other colors advertise.

No animal wants to deal with SKUNK spray. The skunk’s white stripes are noticeable and warn others to stay away. The BULL SNAKE’S coloration resembles a rattler - if one doesn’t look closely enough to see the differences. Most wouldn’t take that chance and would avoid it. Also, the VICEROY BUTTERFLY is colored like the poisonous Monarch. Some butterflies have gigantic EYE-LIKE spots on their wings that might convince birds to stay away from them.

Other colors blend in with the surroundings. FEMALE BIRDS are harder to notice when on their nest. INSECTS and LIZARDS can resemble the vegetation, rocks, or earth so closely that they become almost invisible. SNOWSHOE HARES, PTARMIGAN, and SHORT-TAILED WEASELS all turn from their summer brown to winter white as the seasons change. They are hard to spot on the snow when the summer foliage is no longer able to conceal them.

The many stripes on ZEBRAS, when seen as a fleeing group, makes it confusing for lions to single out an individual to bring down.

We almost missed this Snowshoe Hare while hiking along an Alaska river bank. This Zebra is an import to a Texas ranch.

(Colors that protect)