10 Animals That Can Change Color

Many animal species have the ability to protect themselves from predators as well as help them catch their prey by deception called camouflage. A chosen few even have the remarkable capability to change color to help them attract mates, to communicate with other members, or simply to express their mood.

Janolus sp by Stephen Childs.

These snails without shells are some of the most colorful and intricately patterned and shaped creatures on the planet. Their predators better not be fooled by their fascinating “look at me” appearance as they can taste awful or are poisonous. The nudibranchs colorings, which help in camouflage, depend on the food they eat.

Sea horse by Silvain de Munck.

They are bony fish without the scales. While their relatives swim horizontally, seahorses swim upright, and very poorly, with the help of their dorsal and pectoral fins. They are called “the chameleons of the sea” as they can change color as a response to many different environmental factors including: stress (they may darken), social interactions (their colors often brighten during courtship), temperature, disease, diet and also to blend with their immediate surroundings.

Nekton Rorqual 2009, Peacock Flounder smile by divemasterking2000.

Flounders hide in the sand by changing color to match their surroundings. Upon hatching, a young flounder swims upright just like any normal fish. It also has two eyes located on each side of its head. As it becomes an adult, one eye migrates to the other side facing upwards as a process of metamorphosis.

Hooded Cuttlefish by prilfish.

Cuttlefish are mollusks that have the amazing ability to quickly change skin color anytime they want to. They do this to talk to other cuttlefish and to camouflage themselves from their enemies. Their color changing abilities are made possible by specialized pigment cells called chromatophores, iridophores and leucophores. Cuttlefish also have the remarkable capability to affect the lights polarization as it reflects off their skin.

Polbo / Octopus by Noel Feans.

To protect themselves from predators, octopuses will hide, do a fast escape, squirt ink, amputate their own limbs or simply camouflage. Like its relative, the cuttlefish, an octopus disguise is made possible by pigment-containing and light-reflecting cells which can also be used to communicate with family members. To achieve greater camouflage, octopuses can use their skin muscles to transform the texture of their mantle to make them obtain the spiky appearance of a seaweed, or the scraggly, bumpy texture of a rock.


The tuatara of New Zealand is said to be one of the most unique animal in the planet. They are referred to as “living fossils.” as their closest relatives are a group of reptiles that lived during the dinosaur age. Tuataras color range from olive green to brown to orange-red—changing its color throughout its lifetime for reasons still unknown. Adults shed their skin (molting) at least once a year while juveniles up to four times.

Peron’s Tree Frog
File:Peron's Tree Frog - Litoria peronii.jpg

The general color of this Australian frog is mottled brown or grey with yellow and black patterns on its thighs, armpits and groin. It has a high pitched machine gun-like cackle, giving two of its common names: “Laughing Tree Frog,” and “Maniacal Cackle Frog”.  Occasionally, they also have emerald spots on the back that multiplies with age, giving them another one of their common name, the “Emerald Spotted Tree Frog.” The Peron’s Tree Frog change color from shades of grey and brown to almost white within seconds depending on temperature, light and moisture.

Crab Spider
Nikkor 18-55 mm spider by Jsome1.

Misumena vatia is the largest species of flower spider in North America. These spiders have the unique ability to conceal themselves by changing color from white to yellow. The camouflage is done by emitting a yellow liquid pigment into the outer cell layer of its body. The color change from yellow to white takes about six days and the reverse between 10 to 25 days. The white to yellow color change takes much longer since the yellow pigment needs to be produced first.

Golden Tortoise Beetle
Face Change by CharlesLam.

The staple of this North American bug are morning glory leaves. The microscopic valves which controls the moisture levels under the shell makes their golden color turn into red with black spots. Many family members also have black markings which hide the original colors to a range of hues.

Veiled Chameleon by walknboston.

These slow moving lizards are the best known creatures with color changing abilities. Contrary to popular belief, chameleons don’t typically change color for reasons of camouflage, but rather as a way of communication, including attraction to potential mates. Chameleons have specialized pigment cells called chromatophores which can quickly reposition, thus controlling the color of the lizard which include pink, blue, red, orange, green, black, brown, yellow and turquoise .