Tricky Animals

Animals living in the wild have many tricky ways to stay safe from their enemies.

Some animals are great hiders—even when you're looking right at them. This sand dab seems almost to disappear as it lies on the ocean floor. Its speckly, sandy color makes it difficult for a big, hungry fish to spot it.

Photography Credit: © Stuart Westmorland/CORBIS.

This jellyfish lives deep in the ocean, where it's dark as night. But guess what? It can glow in the dark, like a firefly. If a fish tries to eat it, it flashes brightly. This startles the fish. And the flashing light attracts the attention of even bigger animals that can scare the fish away when they swim over.

Photography Credit: © David Wrobel / Visuals Unlimited.

A relative of the sea horse, the leafy sea dragon is small, slow, and helpless. But because of the way its skin hangs off its body, it fools its enemies into thinking it's just an uninteresting clump of seaweed drifting through the ocean.

Photography Credit: © Stephen Frink Collection/Alamy.

Many animals would love to gobble up this little tree frog. But if he stays still, they might not see him sitting quietly on his leaf.

Photography Credit: © Theo Allofs/zefa/CORBIS.

When an octopus needs to escape an enemy, it squirts out an inky black liquid. The enemy is confused by the inky cloud—which has the shape and smell of an octopus—and the octopus jets safely away.

Photography Credit: © Jeff Rotman/Photo Researchers, Inc.

What big eyes you have! That's what a hungry bird thinks when a silk moth opens its wings. The moth's false eyespots look like the eyes of an owl and can frighten an attacker away.

Photography Credit: © Altrendo/Getty Images.

Can you find the walking stick insect? Many of its enemies can't.

Photography Credit: © Annie Griffiths Belt/National Geographic/Getty Images.

Looks like someone's been nibbling this leaf. But it's not a leaf at all. It's an insect that stays safe by looking like just another leaf on the tree. It even swings gently from side to side to imitate a leaf swaying in the breeze.

Photography Credit: © Art Wolfe/Stone/Getty Images.

The little hedgehog is covered with stiff, needlelike spines on its back. It rolls itself into a spiky ball if danger comes near. Now that's a good trick!

Photography Credit: © Joe McDonald/CORBIS.
Photography Credit (inset):© Jane Burton/dk images/Getty Images.

When threatened, the hognose snake turns upside-down, throws back its head, holds its mouth open—and plays dead. Many animals won't eat something unless they have killed it themselves. So playing dead is a clever way for this snake to stay safe.

Photography Credit: © MC DONALD WILDLIFE PHOTOG./Animals Animals-Earth Scenes.

Vocabulary

enemy:
A person or animal that can harm another person or animal.

spine:
A part of an animal that sticks out with a sharp point.

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Activity

  1. All of these animals have special ways to keep safe from enemies. Think of another animal that likes to pretend it is dead when an enemy is nearby. What is this animal called?
    [anno: Answers may vary but could an opossum.]
  2. Some frogs live in a pond with a lot of lily pads. What might be the safest color for these frogs to be? Why?
    [anno: The safest color would be green. The frog would blend into the lily pad.]