Wildlife & Wild Places

April Fools’ Day: Nature’s Wildest Masters of Deception

An octopus hides in a clam shell. Photograph by Mona Dienhart, My Shot

By Linda Poon

April Fools’ Day is when people roll out their best pranks, tricks, and other shenanigans just for the sake of a good laugh. But compared with the tricksters of the animal kingdom, we’re all just amateurs. (Related: “April Fools’ Day Pictures: Seven Animal Hoaxes.”)

For nature’s masters of deception, the use of camouflage, mimicry, and other kinds of trickery is just part of survival. Whether they’re outsmarting predators, fooling prey, or luring a potential mate, here are five animals that aren’t joking around when they employ their clever tactics.

1.  Octopus and Cuttlefish

Few animals use camouflage as well as the common octopus or the cuttlefish. While other animals blend in to an environment that already resembles their appearance, both octopuses and cuttlefish can transform their entire body in a matter of seconds to mimic the surroundings. From changing their colors, patterns, and textures to altering their shapes, these creatures are the ocean’s true masters of disguise. (Interactive: Test your ability to find the mimic.)

2.  Stoat

It’s hard not to stare at a stoat dancing and thrashing around in an open field. But while it seems like pure entertainment for the unsuspecting prey, the stoat isn’t just busting a move to show off. The weasel is actually hypnotizing its next meal so that it can attack at the perfect moment.

3. Frogfish

Part frog, part fish in its appearance, the frogfish—a type of anglerfish—is neither the fastest swimmer nor the greatest hopper. So when it comes to hunting, the frogfish waits for prey to come to it. The anglerfish disappears among the sponges and corals, keeping its body still but waving the appendage attached to the end of its dorsal fin as bait. Once a hungry shrimp swims over, thinking it has found food, the frogfish swallows the unsuspecting victim in one big gulp.

4. Strange-Headed Snake

Perhaps the sneakiest of the bunch, the strange-headed snake is also known as the two-headed snake. But one head is actually just its tail, which mimics the behavior of a retreating snake to fool predators into thinking it’s alert and ready to fight back. All the while, the front end of the snake is looking for its own dinner.

5. Lyrebird

Songbirds are pros at mimicking the songs of other birds. But the lyrebird takes it to a whole new level when trying to attract a potential mate. He goes beyond just imitating other birds and repeats the sounds of different animals. More impressively, the lyrebird can also imitate things like chainsaws buzzing, car alarms blaring, and even camera shutters clicking.

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • ROULIS

    just amazing…!!!!

  • ROULIS

    just amazing…!!!!

  • Brad R

    Awesome video. I LOVE THE BACKGROUND MUSIC. Who is the musical artist can anyone tell me pls?

  • Brad R

    Awesome video. I LOVE THE BACKGROUND MUSIC. Who is the musical artist can anyone tell me pls?

  • Brad R

    Awesome video. I LOVE THE BACKGROUND MUSIC. Who is the musical artist can anyone tell me pls? x

  • Brad R

    Awesome video. I LOVE THE BACKGROUND MUSIC. Who is the musical artist can anyone tell me pls? x

  • Nadarajan perumal

    Very rarely we see this kind of nature. You are doing a great job by publishing this type of very rare,invaluble and pretious photos and vedios.Good luck .

  • Nadarajan perumal

    Very rarely we see this kind of nature. You are doing a great job by publishing this type of very rare,invaluble and pretious photos and vedios.Good luck .

  • Marc Simmons

    The Rubber Boa (Charina bottae) of the Western United States and Canada also has a blunt tail it uses to fool both prey and predator. They have been observed “fighting” with mice with the fake head while the real one swallows up the babies in a nest one by one. When attacked–by birds, for example–they will often curl up in a ball and allow the attacker to bite away at the tail/false head while the real head seeks an escape. Large specimens encountered in the field inevitably have heavily scarred tails. And, yes–they are true boa constrictors that live in the Pacific Northwest!

  • Marc Simmons

    The Rubber Boa (Charina bottae) of the Western United States and Canada also has a blunt tail it uses to fool both prey and predator. They have been observed “fighting” with mice with the fake head while the real one swallows up the babies in a nest one by one. When attacked–by birds, for example–they will often curl up in a ball and allow the attacker to bite away at the tail/false head while the real head seeks an escape. Large specimens encountered in the field inevitably have heavily scarred tails. And, yes–they are true boa constrictors that live in the Pacific Northwest!

  • GP

    this is fantastic!

    the stoat…what?!? also, the cuttlefish is so talented at hiding, I wonder how it came to be a staple in Korean food…

    The lyrebird is the real day maker, though.

  • GP

    this is fantastic!

    the stoat…what?!? also, the cuttlefish is so talented at hiding, I wonder how it came to be a staple in Korean food…

    The lyrebird is the real day maker, though.

  • Trudi Davis Westwood

    These are fabulous examples of animal behavior I never even knew about. Love the Stoat and the Lyrebird. How amazing is hearing a bird call car alarm, camera click, chain saw and a beautiful trill.

    Thanks so much for doing this!!

  • Trudi Davis Westwood

    These are fabulous examples of animal behavior I never even knew about. Love the Stoat and the Lyrebird. How amazing is hearing a bird call car alarm, camera click, chain saw and a beautiful trill.

    Thanks so much for doing this!!

  • Karina

    Nice video!

  • Karina

    Nice video!

  • Malvina Carran

    This is an amazing post about April Fools’ day tricks. I never knew animals in some ways will be able to participate in relation to spoofs of April Fools. I must agree that they are the wildest nature of deception because they hide or camouflage and seems like a sample of a trick. I guess this must be something interesting. It is so good to know that even animals do initiate something related to April Fools.Well, like us we do celebrate april fools day by means of a few simple tricks and pranks to anyone.

  • Malvina Carran

    This is an amazing post about April Fools’ day tricks. I never knew animals in some ways will be able to participate in relation to spoofs of April Fools. I must agree that they are the wildest nature of deception because they hide or camouflage and seems like a sample of a trick. I guess this must be something interesting. It is so good to know that even animals do initiate something related to April Fools.Well, like us we do celebrate april fools day by means of a few simple tricks and pranks to anyone.

  • Malvina Carran

    In addition to my opinion about this article, I have noticed too that April Fools foolery is not for human only. I think , animals can do tricks also. These pranks and practical jokes consist of bad and good. Others even turned out to be realistic and sometimes deceiving like those animals. However, it is just a matter of understanding of april fools day and being aware of it.

  • Malvina Carran

    In addition to my opinion about this article, I have noticed too that April Fools foolery is not for human only. I think , animals can do tricks also. These pranks and practical jokes consist of bad and good. Others even turned out to be realistic and sometimes deceiving like those animals. However, it is just a matter of understanding of april fools day and being aware of it.

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