The Crazy Camouflage of a Lichen Katydid (Video)

Screen capture. David Weiller/YouTube

Looking more like the delicate work of a fiber artist, this wow-worthy insect has clearly mastered the art of blending in.

When you don’t hover in the upper echelons of the food chain and can’t rely on brains and brawn to keep yourself from being eaten, you come up with other tricks. There are all kinds of defense mechanisms put into play in the animal world, but some of the most wonderful are mimicry and its cousin, camouflage. Sometimes mimicry comes in the form of wee little caterpillars looking like big scary snakes; or on the other hand, this champion of disguise, the cinereous mourner, a nestling that pretends to be a toxic, spiny caterpillar. Oh what tangled webs we weave.

But with camouflage, the goal is to just disappear. A useful tool granted through generations of adaptation, it allows organisms to blend in against their backgrounds. Which is where the lichen katydid enters the story.

Insects, which happen to be protein-packed easy pickings for birds and other predators, are masters of mimicry and camouflage – and the lichen katydid is no exception. In its nymphal form, it is the spitting image of the lichen that is abundant in the insect’s habitat. The detailing is so specific that even the dark solid body is etched with lines that look like the lichen, creating the illusion that this is nothing more than a strange tuft of ethereal lichen fronds. Albeit one with six legs and a swank set of antennae.

Wildlife photographer David Weiller took some footage of the extraordinary lichen katydid in Cartago Province, Costa Rica. See for yourself as this gorgeously detailed creature leisurely travels a length of it’s namesake model ... it's hard to even tell where lichen ends and insect begins.