Animals use smell to sniff out predators, and to hide from them.
For humans, vision is the dominant sense, and we often overlook the importance of odour (although we’re reminded on those occasions we find ourselves sat next to someone who’s never discovered deodorant, or driving past a particularly pungent farm). But for most animals, it’s all about smell. Two new studies published last month highlight the importance of smell in the lives of animals as different as flies and snakes.
If you ever owned a pet stick insect as a child, you might have noticed them swaying back and forth at the end of a twig, but until recently, nobody knew what this strange behaviour was for.
Thanks to Dorothy Floyd for pointing out that we have known anecdotally that this behaviour was likely a form of camouflage for several decades! (see Floyd (1987) Keeping Stick Insects)
There is a huge amount of variety in the colours and patterns exhibited by plants and animals. However, most of this variation is fixed at the individual level; only when comparing individuals do we see differences. The ability to change your colour during your lifetime is a trait possessed by only a few animals, which have converged on remarkably similar mechanisms. Colour changes that occur during an animal’s lifetime can occur slowly, with seasonal changes or age (morphological colour change). More dramatically, and more interestingly, some species also have the ability to change their colour or pattern very rapidly, in response to environmental or social conditions (physiological colour change).
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