Masters of Disguise

03-07-2019

By Angie Rocha, Expedition Guide

When we start a walk through the rain forest, the first thing I say to our guests is "Keep your voice down so we can see and hear more things. We need all our senses ready to capture any smell, sound, or even feel—like when mosquitos are feeding from us!"

UnCruise guest taking photos in the rain forest

How many times are we there, trying to spot wildlife, when the very opposite thing could be happening? They see us more than we can see them! Animals don’t want to be found—they have amazing camouflage.

In the rain forest are twigs that walk, leaves that leap, bark that flies, and thorns that hop.

Watch closely, and the bark, moss, and lichen, twigs, dead leaves, and green foliage reveal themselves to be insects, frogs, lizards, snakes, birds. They blend in with their surroundings, hiding right in front of our eyes.

Photo of a bird, taken through a spotting scope

But those are only the smaller animals. What happens with bigger animals, like jaguars, tapirs, or sloths? Are they in danger because they are larger and more visible? Not necessarily. Jaguars, for example, have those beautiful spots, black against a yellow background, that provide excellent camouflage in the forest and the light.

Sloths are one of the most defensive animals in the rain forest. They have slow metabolisms and their movements are very sluggish, so on the ground they crawl instead of walk. On the ground they're more likely to be attacked by an animal, like a jaguar, a boa constrictor, or even a dog. Sloths can use their long claws and thighs, but they cannot run fast. So, nature provided them with an ingenious form of camouflage: a special symbiosis with algae.

A sloth and its baby in the rain forest treetops

The green algae growing in the sloths' fur makes them blend in perfectly with green vegetation. The predominant algae growing in sloth fur, passed directly from mother to offspring, has not been found in any other environment. 

How many animals you can see in the rain forest?

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