Halloween is coming. Time to put on a costume and have some fun. But some animals get to dress up almost every day--not for fun, but for survival.
It's a fish-eat-crab world out there. Octopuses, starfish, and lobsters also love to dine on crabmeat.
But the decorator crabs pictured here have a tricky way to cover up and hide from their enemies. They simply "decorate" themselves with parts of plants or animals from the seafloor. And then, ta-dah! They can scurry along almost unseen. Other kinds of animals, too, use "dressing up" as a way to hide from predators.
How about this silly-looking decorator crab called a sponge crab (see photo at left)? It wears chunks of red and green sponges like a hat.
Using its front pincers, the crab cuts the sponges to the right size and shape. Then it plops the pieces onto its back. This trick often fools its enemies, which mistake the crab for a sponge!
The sponge crab in the photo above is taking no chances on being spotted by its enemies. It has decorated nearly its entire body with sponges. The sponges will live and grow on the crab.
Shell We Collect?
Maybe you've been to the beach and had fun collecting seashells. But how about this: a seashell that collects other shells. The carrier shell (left) does just that!
Inside the shell lives a snail. The snail covers nearly every inch of its shell with empty shells as well as pebbles. It cements these decorations on with its own kind of glue.
When fully decorated, the carrier shell matches its surroundings on the seabed! This means its enemies usually pass it right by.
Here's a new twist on dressing up: The larvae (LAR-vee) of tortoise beetles stick their own poop onto long spines on their backs (right). Yuck!
As the larvae munch away on a leaf, they wear the poop like a shield against would-be enemies--mostly other insects. Face it, if you were hungry, you'd find another meal, right?
A Cozy Case
You've probably never seen the larvae of flying insects called caddisflies. They live in streams and ponds. Many of these larvae build a tube-shaped case around themselves and carry it around in the water.
A caddisfly larva uses materials it finds in the water, such as snail shells, for its case (left). It holds its dress-up "house" together with silk. The hard case blends in with the surroundings and protects the larva hiding inside from hungry fish.
The caddisfly larva pokes partway out of its case to snatch tiny bits of food in the water (below).
Before the youngster changes into an adult caddisfly, it seals up the opening of its case and spins a cocoon. Inside, it slowly changes form. Then, the caddisfly cuts its way out of its home, swims up to the surface, sheds its old skin, and flies off.
So, as you get ready to go out trick-or-treating this Halloween, remember the animals that get to wear costumes all the time!