The ocean is its own ecosystem – an entire world full of predators and prey. Different marine species are known to employ all kinds of tricks to survive from day to day, and many choose the art of camouflage to protect themselves from predators or catch their meals.
Camouflage (hiding by blending into the surrounding environment) is an impressive skill even on land, but the critters that disguise themselves underwater are some of the most interesting-looking creatures out there. Some might pretend to be a piece of seaweed, whilst others may disappear before your eyes in a fantastic colour-changing display.
There are all kinds of camouflage critters hiding in dive sites around the world. See if you can spot any of these three on your future diving adventures:
The Indonesian mimic octopus
This clever critter is found in the shallow warm bays of Indonesia and Malaysia. It changes colour like most octopuses, but what makes this one really different is that it can also change shape! The mimic octopus takes on the form of not just rocks or coral, but up to 15 different sea creatures – including lionfish and sea snakes. What’s really intelligent, though, is that it will choose which aquatic species to impersonate depending on the specific predator it is trying to avoid.
These crabs represent an interesting group of creatures, and different species can be found all over the world in both warm and cold water. Decorator crabs are suitably named; they attach plants and even slow-moving organisms to their bodies to create a desirable disguise. In some cases, the crabs will even attach stinging creatures in order to deter predators! It’s not necessarily bad news for the decoration itself either – the relationship can be mutually beneficial, providing food for the hitch-hiking critter as well as protection to the crab.
The leaf scorpion fish
This fish lives in tropical waters and can be found in spots from shallow reefs right down to depths of 130 meters (427 feet). It looks and moves like a dead leaf in the water, swaying gently from side to side with colours from red and pink to brown and even white. The leaf scorpion fish is a stealthy ambush predator; it sits patiently in camouflage, waiting for prey to swim close enough before turning them into a tasty meal.
Check out the ScubaEarth Critter Finder to learn more about the camouflaged creatures you may come across on your dives – if you can spot them, that is!