Masters of Disguise

Stunning pictures of some of North America's most impressive animal camouflage
Instead of webs, the goldenrod crab spider, Misumena vatia, uses camouflage to ambush its prey, slowly changing color to match the flower on which it's perched. It does this by moving yellow pigment closer to or farther from its outermost layer of cells. The species is most often found among yellow and white blooms, but it can morph into a green or bluish hue when necessary, or even take on reddish spots or stripes. Thus disguised, the arachnid waits frozen, its front legs poised to snap closed in a deadly embrace on hapless insects that come into range. The spider's venomous bite can take down bugs as large as butterflies and bumblebees. Art Wolfe

Animals use camouflage to hide from and confuse predators and prey. For some such animals, their natural appearance mimics, matches, and fades into their surroundings. Others actively shift shape, texture or color to blend in. This amazing ability to hide in plain sight has evolved in parallel across thousands of species, and each animal’s cloaking technique is unique.

“They all need to look invisible,” says zoologist Martin Stevens of the University of Cambridge, “but the mechanisms can be quite varied.” Recent research has focused on how some rare species—cuttlefish, for instance—can even tailor their quick changes to deter different predators. In the following gallery, we capture some of North America’s most ingenious disappearing acts.

Launch the slide show here.