Discoveries: Camouflage

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John G. Shedd Aquarium

Chicago, IL

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White drawing paper
Safety scissors
Crayons or markers


  1. Draw a picture of your favorite animal.
  2. Find a place in your home or yard to put your animal picture. It is important that your picture is not hidden under or behind anything.
  3. Color your animal picture with crayons or markers using the colors found in your “hiding” place. So, if your hiding place is in the grass, use a green crayon; if your hiding place is on a sofa cushion, color the animal the color of the cushion.
  4. Have a grown-up Sprout help you cut out your animal and place it the “hiding” place.
  5. Challenge a family member or friend to find your animal.
  6. Once someone finds your animal picture in its hiding place, ask her or him how they found the animal picture. Was it hard to see the animal picture?
  7. Flip your picture over and try a new “hiding” place with new colors! See if it takes longer to find than the first time.

Why It’s So

Have you ever played “hide n’ seek” with a friend? Animals hide in their habitats, or homes, for protection or to help them sneak up on other animals. Camouflage is when the colors or patterns of an animal’s skin, fur or feathers helps that animal blend in with its habitat. Sometimes even the shape of an animal’s body will help it hide! There are many animals in the water and on land that use camouflage.
Did you know that octopi have highly developed brains and can change colors within seconds of being provoked? Their boneless bodies help them hide in snug places. They can also move backwards at torpedo speed and squirt ink to confuse their predators.
Did you know that seahorses grow skin filaments to match their surroundings? They can also change colors to blend into their backgrounds. If a predator can still find them after this great camouflage job, the bony plates along their body provide extra protection.
Did you know that frogfish look like a sheltering rock on the ocean floor? Fish are drawn to the ‘rock’ for protection and instead get guzzled up by the frogfish. These fish can open their mouths to be 12 times its original size. Frogfish also have a fleshy “antennae” that dangles from its head and ends in a lure. This mimics the shape of a small animal, like a worm, and attracts fish.
Did you know that chameleons don’t change color to match their background? Their color changes when environmental factors, like light and temperature, change. They also change color based on emotions, such as fright, victory, or defeat in battle. This is why mood rings are sometime referred to as chameleon rings!