Animals use all sorts of camouflage techniques to hide in plain sight. The gaboon viper is an excellent example. Its vivid pattern helps break up its body shape in the dense leaf litter of its native habitat, making it nearly invisible until you step on one.
What is Disruptive Camouflage?
Disruptive camouflage is a common sight in nature if you can spot the animals that use it. Animals that use disruptive camouflage are made nearly invisible by patterns and colors that you might think should make them exactly the opposite.
A pattern that looks like fall leaves may look vivid when you hold it against a solid-colored background, yet place it up against those same leaves, and you’ll never see it. For example, you’ll find that zebras bunch together when a predator approaches. Their stripes make it impossible to tell their heads from their tails, and all the animals in the herd blur together. Other examples include zebras, giraffes, reticulated pythons, and copperhead snakes.
About the Copperhead
The copperhead snake is a venomous pitviper native to the southern United States. There are two accepted species, the eastern copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) and the broad-banded copperhead (Agkistrodon laticinctus). These snakes aren’t as dangerously venomous as their close cousin, the water moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus). However, their bite still requires medical attention.
Copperhead snakes use the same approach to camouflaging as a gaboon viper or a zebra. The copperhead’s alternating dark brown/burgundy pattern over a base of light brown serves as camouflage that closely matches the colors and patterns created by the dry leaves where it lives.
While they’re not typically aggressive, their habit of hiding in plain sight makes the copperhead a snake that you must look out for when you’re out in nature.
Can You Spot the Copperhead Snake?
Snakes are inherently difficult to spot in the wild because they can slither silently through tree branches, under the leaves, and even under the ground. Their stealthy nature and excellent camouflage make them easy to miss.
This photo, credited to Jerry Davis of Texas, exemplifies the copperhead’s camouflage. Finding this snake is like finding a needle in a haystack. Can you spot it in the below image?
The snake is almost dead-center in the photo. Do you see it? This particular copperhead species, Agkistrodon contortrix, has a pattern that looks like an hourglass when viewed from above. However, all you can see in the photo is the snake’s side, which shows the lower half of the hourglass. It looks like a curvy line of chocolate kisses with a light-colored center.
Revealing the Copperhead Snake in the Photo
It may take a few minutes to spot the snake in the leaves, which should tell you why experts say you should always hike with a stick. Using it to gently move the leaf litter around before you step helps prevent stepping on a spicy noodle like this copperhead.
Look at the marked-up image below if you haven’t found it yet. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it!
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