Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Animals in Disguise at Beczak Environmental Education Center

Back at Beczak for another great children's program, this time on camouflage!

The kids learned that some animals change color, using specialized cells called chromataphores. (E.g., chameleon, octopus.) Some animals use cryptic coloration; they are the same color as their environment so they can blend in. (E.g., polar bears are white like the snow.) Some animals use disguise; that is, they look like a plant, stone, or other environmental feature. (E.g., angler fish looks like coral; stick bug looks like a stick.) Some animals have a special form of camouflage known as countershading, where their bodies are two toned, so that they blend in when viewed from different angles. (E.g., Sharks and penguins are dark on top and light on the bottom, so that when seen from above, they blend with the dark surface of the sea, and from below, they blend with the bright sky.) Other animals use disruptive coloration-- patterns which break up the silhouette of the animal so it is hard for predators to sngle it out from the herd or group. (E.g., zebra and giraffe stripes.) Other creatures have bright or high contrast warning coloration. (E.g., the monarch butterfly, poison dart frogs.) Some animals mimic a poisonous or bad tasting creature. (E.g., the viceroy butterfly mimics the bad tasting monarch's coloration.)

Then they cut out a photo of an animal and created a painted environment in which it could camouflage itself. Mikro chose a seahorse.

After they finished their project, the kids went outside to look for examples of camouflage and coloration in action. They saw bees and monarch butterflies, displaying bright warning colors, as well as some insects like grasshoppers using cryptic coloration to blend with the green grass.

After the program, we hung out near the waterfront with friends, enjoying the beautiful day.

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