Nature's Costume Changes

Many animals stay the same color their entire lives...however, some animals have special adaptations that allow them to change color. Check out the fascinating information about how and why these animals change their colors!


Insta-Color


One of the most well-known masters of color change is the chameleon. We often think of the chameleon as changing color to blend into its environment, however, their ability to change colors is helpful for other reasons too. If a chameleon is feeling cool, it will turn a darker color to help it absorb more sunlight and warm up. The opposite is true if it feels too warm, it will turn to a lighter color to reflect away the sunlight. Males will turn bright colors to attract females, and they will even show emotion and try to scare predators through their colors.

The octopus is truly amazing when it comes to changing colors. They can instantly change colors to match their surroundings...and have the ability to change the texture of their skin! Some cells in their skin act like mirrors which allow them to reflect the light of their surroundings...which is how they can look exactly like the ocean floor or a coral reef.


How does this happen? Both animals have colored cells in their skin that they can open and close to allow different colors to come through. If they want to turn red, they close off the other colors and open the red cells. Pretty amazing.



Seasonal Color


Some animals have the ability to change color with the season. The arctic fox, ptarmigan, and snowshoe hare are examples of animals that wear a special winter coat when the weather changes. These animals trade in their gray/brown coats or feathers for pure white in the winter. Similar to the leaves changing color, the change in their coats is triggered by the shorter days that come with winter.

Why do these animals change color for the winter? First, it helps them blend in with their snowy environment...it is harder to see a white animal against a background of snow which protects them from predators (and allows predators to hunt without being seen). Another important reason is for warmth. White fur and feathers lack pigment which means there is extra air in the hair and feathers. This extra air helps them stay warmer when the temperature drops in the winter.


If you have animals that change color near where you live, pay attention to what happens to them with the change in seasons...and if you lucky enough to see a chameleon or octopus, you can learn a lot about how it is feeling by the color of its skin!


Stay Wild and Free,


Michelle



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