Masters of Camouflage

By Dave Hanks

Different animal species protect themselves from enemies in their own specific way. Pronghorns depend on speed; birds can fly or dive under water to escape predators at the earthís surface; Black Bears will climb a tree, as will squirrels; but Grizzlies have adapted size and ferocity and need not flee from anything. Smaller animals like weasels, are quick and most would be enemies think twice before risking getting bitten by these feisty creatures.

However, one of the most common defense strategies is to be invisible by blending in with oneís surroundings. Female ducks are colored like the vegetation they nest in, and the Ptarmigan changes color to fit the season. Wild felines can easily slip through the grass or over the rocks without detection. Most small, drab birds are hard to spot, and many insects match their background perfectly.

Reptiles are masters of camouflage, with lizards vying for the championship. The little Anole can change from green to brown depending on what the background is. This normally green animal can cause blood to rush to the surface to cause this change.

One lizard we encounter the most is the Desert Spiny Lizard. Spiny lizards get to be 12 inches long from nose to tail tip. Like other lizards they can lose their tail and grow another if itís seized by a predator. Males have a blue throat patch, and the femaleís head turns orange during the breeding season. Temperatures affect the variations in these color acquisitions. In mid-summer the female will lay anywhere from 4 to 20 eggs, which incubate in the summerís heat in 8 to 11 weeks.

This species is found in six western states in habitats that are arid and have either dry, woody trees or plenty of rocks to bask upon. They are mainly insect eaters, but will eat some vegetation.

One researcher reported a conflict between a Collared and Spiny Lizard. The two took positions next to each other, bodies parallel, sizing each other up with sidelong glances. Eventually they took off in opposite directions. Apparently neither felt superior enough to press the issue.

(A Spiny Lizard blending in well).