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A selection of nature's greatest imposters, tricksters and magicians.
Whether to escape predators or to surprise their prey, the talented strategists of nature in The Champions of Camouflage survive using visual trickery and fascinating biology.
Some simply change their clothing to suit the seasons, such as the willow ptarmigan who appears pure white in winter snow and golden-brown-red in the summer. Others, like the satanic leaf-tailed gecko (on the jacket) who disguises itself amidst leaves to blend into its surroundings, are the same year-round but their appearance seamlessly blends them into the environment. Grasshoppers of the genus Paraphidnia and the African mantis Popa spurca perfectly imitate the small branches of trees, becoming virtually invisible to predators and prey.
Some species use incredible stratagems to get rid of their enemies, of the frog Physalaemus, for example. When this amphibian is threatened, he turns his back to his opponent and shows his hindquarters on which is "painted" a pair of large black eyes. If the mask is not enough to intimidate the opponent, the fake eyes will emit an impressive "white secretion". That usually does the trick.
Jean-Philippe Noël is a journalist specializing in nature, travel and history. He regularly collaborates with various magazines, such as Science & Vie and Thirty Million Friends, and has written about 20 books, including books on animals for young audiences. He is also the author of historical drama. He lives in Sarthe, France.