For humans, disguise and impersonation are good fun. For animals, it could mean the difference between life and death. Through evolution, different types of animals have learned to mimic other creatures, either to help them catch prey or to avoid would-be predators. Here are some of the most skilled trick-or-treaters of the animal kingdom:
1. What’s worse than a cobra? Two of them!
The atlas moth has developed a striking tool to ward off predators: protrusions at the tips of its wings that resemble a snake’s head, poised to attack.
2. The rare eight-legged ant
Several jumping spiders have developed a leaner build to be able to pass as ants. They will even mimic the movement patterns of ants and use their forelimbs to mimic antennae. The display is not for the benefit of ants, which would probably not buy the ruse, but predators that have learned to avoid ants out of fear of swarm reprisal.
3. Buzz off!
This little guy can be the cause of much undue panic, as its coloration and hovering flight patterns perfectly mimic those of bees. A closer look can reveal the deception, though, as the band-eyed drone fly has unique zebra-striped eyes (and a distinct lack of stinger).
4. Size is relative
The northern white-faced owl doesn’t just change shape, it changes size. When faced with a potential rival of a similar size, the owl puffs up its feathers in a fearsome display, appearing to double its size. But in the presence of an obviously larger threat, it will opt to shrink itself to appear unassuming and harmless.
5. Show us your fangs
The spicebush swallowtail caterpillar is pretty much helpless in its juvenile stage, which is why it develops “eyes” that allow it to pass off as a snake.
6. A master of shapeshifting
The mimic octopus is a true master of deception, as it can take the form of several different creatures, including lion-fish, sea snakes and stingrays!
7. What a hoot
Humans aren’t the only guys around who think an owls large, glaring eyes are creepy. Owl moths have developed frighteningly accurate eye markings on their wings to scare away any potential threat.
8. A venom-free doppelgänger
Coral snakes are the most venomous snakes in North America. Luckily, this isn’t one of them. kingsnakes are nonvenomous snakes that actually prey on other snakes (including vipers), but while they are immune to venom, they are vulnerable to larger predators. By appearing like the lethal coral snake, they can fool hunters into leaving them alone.
9. Wriggly bait
The alligator snapping turtle is a more aggressive type of mimic, as it uses its tongue to imitate an innocuous worm. Any fish that tries to take a bite will find itself being on the bitten end, instead.