Kids' Animal Station

For kids who love animals by a kid who loves animals

4 Animal Illusionists

Almost everyone can agree that magicians, and the magic tricks they perform, are pretty cool. They can make quarters appear behind your ear, guess which card you chose, and even pull rabbits out of hats. The crazier thing about magicians is, all their tricks are indeed like magic, but not in the way you’d think. The magic of magicians is their ability to deceive the human mind and senses. When you think of magicians or illusionists, you might think of Houdini or David Copperfield, but what about the original illusionists? I am, of course, talking about those of the animal kingdom.

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  1. Chameleons- The Disappearing Act

One of the most widely known examples of animals that use “magic”, or deceivery of the senses, to survive, is the Chameleon. Chameleons are lizards that are typically a light shade of green, eat many different types of insects, and are known for their many special features, such as their eyes, which can move in different directions at the same time, and their long tongues, that, although the Chameleon is slow, can dart in and out in a flash. To keep up with the fast reflexes of their prey, Chameleons have the ability to change the pigment of their scaly skin, which they use for not only courting, but for hunting, as they blend in with the environment and thus catch the bugs by surprise. This also earns Chameleons a spot on this list, because they trick their prey’s sense of sight into believing they aren’t there. The equivalent of this trick in the human world would be acting, in the way that actors change themselves both physically and emotionally to fit the role they are given.

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2. Sharks- Invisibility
Moving on to a much lesser known example that will probably shock a lot of people, sharks also use magic, like the Chameleon, except with a trick called countershading. Sharks always have a lighter underbelly, and a dark back, so if there’s a predator of them looking up from under, the shark will blend in with the light surface of the water, and if a predator’s looking down from above, they’ll think that the shark is part of the ocean floor. This is an adaptation called countershading, that appears in many fish and birds, because it lessens detection from both predators and prey. Countershading makes it so that the shark is mostly invisible to both its prey and predators, which is their trick. Something to think about is: what exactly do sharks have to conceal themselves from? Could this countershading be an advantage from the past, when prehistoric sea creatures still roamed the sea, or an indication of sea monsters that haven’t yet been discovered, and hunt sharks. The human equivalent of this deceivery is the camouflage pattern that often appears on the clothes of hunters and soldiers to aid in hiding them.

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3. Hoverfly- Stolen Identity

This animal magician, the hoverfly, not only tricks animals and humans, but deceives them into thinking it’s another animal entirely. Despite being of a completely different species, the hoverfly has adapted to look like a bee or wasp, with black and yellow stripes, and the signature “buzz” sound too. The fly’s little costume is beneficial to its survival, because it keeps predators, like humans and dogs, away with the perceived threat of a bee stinger. Hoverflies have a particularly impressive trick, that is typically referred to as mimicry. An example of this in the human world is spies that assume a secret identity on missions and such, while leading a normal life.

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4. Octopus- Master of Escape

Most people know the name “Houdini”, sometimes preceded by “The Great”, for his is probably the World’s most famous magician. One of his most popular types of tricks, those involving escaping from some cage or another, can be replicated by what may be his animal equivalent, the Octopus. They are notorious for their ability to solve rather complex puzzles and open jars with their long, very functional tentacles, but that’s not the trick we’ll be talking about today. Instead, our focus is on their Houdini-like ability to slip in and out of quite small spaces, such as jars and crevices in underwater rock faces. Even places like aquariums have trouble keeping octopuses from slipping out, which in addition to their trick, is difficult because of their intelligence, which is uncharacteristically high for a fish. Their equivalent would be, well, any of Houdini’s escape acts.

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Wise Words

"Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if a person or animal is at stake."
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter."
— Translation of African Proverb

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