It's a cover-up. Sophie Duncan looks at animal camouflage

21st May 2004 at 01:00
Now you see it, now you don't.

Camouflage is an important part of many animals' defence against predators. It is easier to become invisible than to fight potential enemies. Camouflage is also important for predators, to help them creep up on their prey. There are different forms of camouflage. Many animals and insects are coloured in similar ways to their habitat so they blend in with the background. Others resemble something else, such as the walking stick insect, which resembles a twig. This experiment allows your students to explore the idea of camouflage and how it works.

Encourage your students to draw and then cut a large animal shape out of dark blue paper. (Make sure they include a handle to help them hold their animal shape.) Randomly dot the animal shape with white paint. Take a sheet of dark blue paper and dot this with white paint in a similar way. Make the dots quite small, and make sure they are randomly placed.

Each child should hold their animal shape in front of the background, and stand several metres away from their classmates. Ask the children to guess what animal it is.

If they can't see it, ask the child to move their animal. When they move the shape the children will see it. Many animals can detect motion, which is important when hunting or avoiding predators. When animals are stationary and camouflaged they are much harder to see.

You can try other forms of camouflage. Some insects look like leaves.

Create a display of a leafy bush on the wall. Give your students leaf templates and allow them to make different coloured leaf insects and hide them in the bush. Which colours are most effective for camouflage?

Try out the camouflage game on the BBC website: www.bbc.co.ukbeastsfossilfuncamouflagehtml

For more information about camouflage, and some great photos try: http:science.howstuffworks.comanimal-camouflage.htm

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