In the animal kingdom we can find many species of animals capable of altering their coloration. This capacity, so striking for human beings, can have different purposes and utilities in animals, depending on the species and its objectives in each situation.
Why do animals change color? Well, the truth is that there are four main reasons why different animals adopt this ability:
- Survival: It is the most common, and also the easiest to understand. An animal capable of altering its coloration to go unnoticed by mimicry with the environment, has a much greater chance of not being perceived by its predators or by its potential prey to catch them off guard. Also fall into this category those who resort to aposematism, that is, adopting striking and strident colorations to deter their predators and enemies.
- Reproduction: Many species have mating rituals that involve attracting the attention of the member of the opposite sex with all kinds of resources. The ability to change body color is a very valuable skill when it comes to attracting attention and actually many animals use it that way.
- Thermoregulation: Different colors absorb light with different degrees and, therefore, also its temperature. Being able to go darker means being able to warm up faster in the sun, while being lighter will help you cool down.
- Communication: This method of communication is used frequently by the chameleon, although it is not exclusive to it. Its different colors can reflect different states of mind or sensations, such as fear or alertness, thus being a way of communicating.
We cannot speak of animals that change color without starting with the best known of them all, the chameleon, famous precisely for this ability, although it is also famous for its curious large eyes , its long tongue and its slow movements. All chameleons can change their coloration, although the different species do so with a greater or lesser range of colors. It uses its chromatic capacity both to camouflage itself and to attract females and regulate their temperature, thanks to the chromatophores in the different layers of their skin. These are the names of some species of chameleon :
- Ituri chameleon
- Camaleon de Fischer
- Smith’s dwarf chameleon
- Jackson’s Chameleon
The common cuttlefish is one of the marine mollusks that can be found in various oceans and seas, at depths of at least 200 meters. They have a skin endowed with chromatophores, like that of chameleons and many other animals with this ability to change color , which are specialized cells of the skin and use them to change the patterns or drawings of the skin of the whole body in very Little time.
Flatfish are one of the greatest masters among animals that camouflage themselves using color changes. They have evolved to bury themselves in the sand or lie on the bottom, change the color of their scales and go unnoticed. The common sole is one of the best examples of fish that change color .
This beetle has wings that cover the entire back and are usually of a metallic gold color . However, when the tortoise beetle is in stressful situations or before events that alter its state, such as when reproducing or feeling threatened, its wings change color completely and turn a showy red color .
This reptile has its origin in the territories of the United States, although today it is extended to Mexico and some nearby islands. It is typical of wooded areas and meadows, and tends to choose a tree life or on the rocks. The American anole also has chromatophores, which allow it to go from its original bright green coloration to a brown or dark brown color in threatening situations.
The skin is not the only resource available to change color: the coat can also do it, although it changes slowly and has nothing to do with cormatophores. There are several mammals that use this ability, such as the Arctic fox. In the warm season its coat is gray or brown , but when the snow arrives in the cold months, it changes its coat for a white one , which allows it to blend in with the snowy mantle.
The impressive mime octopus is one of the best when it comes to impersonating others. Its totally flexible body and great intelligence allow it to adopt the forms of other animals and it is also capable of changing its coloration to make the perfect costume. It is capable of imitating up to 20 different species such as crabs, jellyfish and stingrays and inhabits the waters of Australia and some countries in Asia.
Yellow crab spider
This is one of the small arachnids that does not measure more than 1 cm is typical of North America. The yellow crab spider changes color to shades of white and yellow with different patterns, to suit the coloration of the flowers on which it usually perches to hunt.
The Pacific tree frog is a North American frog, which climbs trees thanks to the suction cup pads on its legs, is able to change color to blend in with the environment or regulate its temperature, a process that they are able to complete in between one and two minutes.
There are various species of seahorses or Hippocampus that have managed to master the change in color of their skin thanks to chromatophores. Faced with threatening or other stimuli, such as in their courtship phase, these marine species are capable of changing their coloration, at a speed that will depend on the power of the stimulus.