Another Level of Camouflage
Another level of camouflage: Camouflage is the key to many animals survival and is used as a form of defence to blend into the surroundings and a form of attack when hiding in water. Another level of camouflage for predation is the Tasselled Wobbegong which is a shark whose skin blends into the seabed making difficult to spot for its would be prey.
The most impressive and advanced use of camouflage as a defensive mechanism I have ever seen was in Ankarafantsika national park in the northern half of Madagascar. This park is about 450km north of Tana along the RN4 and is home to baobab trees, crocodiles and lemurs but as fascinating as these sights are the most interesting thing I saw there was a little chameleon called a Brookesia.
Another level of camouflage is seen in a species native to Madagascar they are among the worlds the worlds smallest chameleons. There are about 30 known species of Brookesia but they are understudied in comparison to their larger relatives due to their size, camouflage ability and difficulty accessing areas which they live.
They live in dry deciduous forests such as the one in Ankarafantsika and can be found among the leaf litter on the ground. When they detect disturbances they play dead and resemble the leaves which they are amongst as protection. Otherwise known as leaf chameleons due to their camouflage methods it was easy to see how this name came about when I came across one in the park.
Once again I was fortunate to be in the company of a superb guide, Tosi, whose eagle eye spotted one as we walked through the forest path next to the lake. While we were walking and chatting he stopped suddenly and started to whisper excitedly and pointed to something among the leaves on the ground.
After some direction from Tosi I saw what is the most amazing piece of camouflage I have ever witnessed. There was a Brookesia about four inches long among the leaves and it was very difficult to spot. When Tosi first pointed it out I thought it was a leaf but on closer inspection I could see it was a chameleon that looked very much like one. Not only was it the same colour as the leaves around it but its had extended parts of the upper side of its body in such a way that it looked the shape of a leaf too. On its head was the tip of the leaf complete with the point a normal leaf would have at one end. Going down its back the leaf curved in then back out towards the base of spine to form a round end which ended in a tip before its tail. Not only was it the same colour and shape as a dried leaf but it also had the same cracks and little holes a dried and dead leaf would have. The parts of its legs which face upwards had also taken the colour of the leaf adding to its ability to stay hidden.
This little chameleon has evolved in a way I have never seen before and the more time I spent in these parks makes me realise how truly unique they are. I imagine it is possible to spend a lifetime of quiet discovery in this park alone let alone Madagascar as a whole.