Marine masters of disguise

Natural selection has produced a wide variety of survival mechanisms in the animal kingdom. Down in the oceans, many marine creatures have mastered the art of camouflage to confuse and outsmart likely predators, and/or lie in wait for unsuspecting prey.

Here are 4 marine animals that use different methods of camouflage in their fight for survival.

Grey Reef Shark: Countershading


Top/bottom countershading (dark upper side and pale underside) is common among marine animals such as sharks and dolphins. In the case of Grey Reef Sharks, their pale belly blends in with the bright sea surface (when viewed from beneath) while their dark upper side blends into the shadowy sea depths (when viewed from the top). This renders them almost invisible to potential prey.

Fun fact: do you know that Grey Reef Sharks are a viviparous species where females give birth to live young that develop within the mother’s body? Click here to read more about the different ways sharks reproduce.

Leafy Sea Dragon: Mimesis

marine camouflage

Mimesis (Greek for ‘imitation’) is practised by animals such as Leafy Sea Dragons, arguably one of the most beautiful marine creatures. Their leaf-like appendages along their body make them look like undulating stray kelp thicket swayed by the current rather than food for potential predators.

Here’s another interesting fact about Leafy Sea Dragons: the males give birth.

Read more about these amazing creatures here.

Decorator Crab: Self-decoration

decorator crab
Can you tell there are 3 decorator crabs here? We think we know what their favourite colours are by the sea sponges they use to decorate themselves with.

With velcro-like hair on their shells and legs, Decorator Crabs attach materials from their environment, such as sea sponges and even sea urchins, to camouflage themselves. Apart from camouflage purposes, these ‘decorations’ also double up as self-defense as they often have a pungent smell or contain noxious chemicals.

Click here to watch an amusing video of decorator crabs “playing dress-up”, and learn about other ‘arty-farty’ marine animals.

Giant Pacific Octopus: Active Camouflage

Giant Pacific Octopus

Cephalopods such as Giant Pacific Octopus, cuttlefish, and squid employ active camouflage (sometimes called adaptive colouration) where they change their body colour rapidly to blend in with their environment.

For the Giant Pacific Octopus, it even has the ability to control the texture of its skin to match that of surrounding rocks, sand or algae. The secret lies in the network of finely controlled muscles beneath its skin that can create bumps, ridges or even spikey horns.

Read more about the Giant Pacific Octopus and its caretakers at the S.E.A. Aquarium.

Keen to learn more about the strange survival tactics of marine animals? Join us at our Halloween event Spooky Seas.

Spooky Seas at S.E.A. Aquarium, 1 – 31 Oct 2016

Online Exclusive: Family Bundle at S$68*
Two (2) S.E.A. Aquarium Adult Dated One-Day Passes
One (1) S.E.A. Aquarium Child Dated One-Day Pass


*Valid for online purchase in Singapore only. Terms and Conditions apply.

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