Everywhere you look in the natural world you will find brilliant examples of life using camouflage to survive. With many creatures any advantage can mean the difference between life and death and camouflage is a big advantage. This has led to many animals evolving many adaption’s to blend in, either to avoid becoming food, or to help hunt food.
This is just as true in the ocean as it is on land with many marine creatures blending perfectly into the background. The difference is a lot of the stranger creatures are hard to find and are not well known outside of the diving community. Most divers love to see the “Big stuff”, sharks, mantas, whale sharks, but you will find a huge amount get just as excited about finding their first seahorse or frogfish
Im one of those divers, the first time i saw a frogfish, i didn’t understand why my guide was trying to get me to look at an empty patch of reef. After a couple of minutes of what felt like charades between us, i finally saw the face and realised that i had finally found a frogfish!
So below are some marine creatures that i have chosen to be my top five “Masters of Disguise”
Gobies form the largest families of fish with most being relatively small, less than 10cm, with some being less than 1cm! There small size makes them prime food for bigger fish so camouflage is a great advantage to avoid their predators.
Octopuses have a very fun to watch camouflage system, they can change colour to blend in with their background. This along with their excellent hiding skills are their primary defence to predators. This colour change camouflage is aided by certain specialized skin cells which can change the apparent colour, opacity, and reflectiveness. In some species the mantle can take on the spiky appearance of seaweed, or the scraggly, bumpy texture of a rock, among other disguises.
Stonefish are one of the most venomous fish in the world and can be lethal to humans. As the name Stonefish suggests they look like a stone with a face! This excellent disguise means that they are frequently stepped on by unsuspecting swimmers.
The Pygmy seahorse is less than 2cm in size and lives exclusively on fan corals. The seahorse is so well camouflaged that most species have only recently been discovered and its suspected there still may be more yet to be discovered. These cute creatures are found in two colours, purple/grey with pink or yellow with orange.
Frogfish are a type of anglerfish. Is unusual appearance is to help conceal it from prey but to also mimic a potential meal to help it catch its prey. There are many different types of frogfish all which very different appearances. Some can resemble stones, some coral and others sponges or sea squirts. They also have the ability to change their colour.
Photos credited to:
Goby 1 & 2 & Octopus 2, Stonefish 1 - Prilfish
Octopus1 - Amanderson
Stonefish 2 - Mattkieffer
Seahorse 1 - Tchami
Seahorse 2 - Stephen Childs
Frogfish 1 - Catherine Jones
Frogfish 2 - Nicolas Voisin