SciSun: Hiding in Plain Sight

Remember last week we talked about the Sierra Fox, and how it had ‘disappeared’ for years but now it’s been seen again? We’ve been thinking, maybe this fox has been around all along but it’s been a different color! No, that’s not crazy – some animals actually change color to better match their surroundings. This is a type of camouflage, and it’s not just for the secretive fox – many animals and even some plants try to ‘hide’ by taking on colors, patterns, or even shapes of their surroundings so they won’t be seen.

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Summer

But they can’t just change color because they want to (well, a VERY few animals can change to different colors in a few seconds, but they are the exception). Most color changes happen over a few weeks, particularly between summer and winter when some animals turn from their normal darker summer colors to very light, or even white, shades for winter. The lighter colors help them blend into the snow and some scientists believe the color changes can help animals regulate their temperature. But the main reason animals change color during the seasons is to blend in. No one wants to be seen wearing something that’s out of season!

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Winter

So maybe those Sierra Foxes were around all the time, but cleverly changed into a different color. The only problem what that theory is the foxes live among small plants in the forest, and no one believes a fox can change it’s color to green. Or maybe that’s just what the foxes WANT us to think!!

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Bottom

There are lots of great places to learn more about animals changes colors for the seasons. Here are a few to get you started:

http://www.saskschools.ca/~gregory/winter/win6.html

http://wildlife.state.co.us/Education/TeacherResources/ColoradoWildlifeCompany/WinterCWCWin1994.htm

http://www.gi.alaska.edu/ScienceForum/ASF19/1955.html

And don’t forget to check out your local library!  (It’s probably not camouflaged. Just walk right in!)

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