Photo of the Week – November 19, 2010

I’ve always thought that camouflage is one of the more intriguing aspects of the natural world.  It’s one of the easiest ways for me to visualize natural selection working – genetic mutations that occasionally (but extremely rarely) lead to changes in color and/or shape that make individuals harder to see in their environment, which increases their survival, etc… 

But aside from that, I just love finding new examples of insects, especially, that are unbelievably good at blending in with their surroundings.

A grasshopper sits camouflaged against a Platte River sandbar in Nebraska.

This grasshopper photo was taken on a sandbar in the Platte River adjacent to one of our prairies near Kearney, Nebraska.  I first saw it as it flew away from my feet, but when it landed it disappeared.  I didn’t see it again until it flew once more as I walked toward it.  With camera and tripod in hand, I proceeded to follow it along the sandbar, trying to sneak up on it each time it landed.  It’s hard enough to sneak up on something when you can see it, but it’s incredibly difficult when you don’t know exactly where your quarry is.  Let’s just say I’m glad no one was watching me do it…

I finally succeeded in spotting it and edging my tripod close enough to get a photo or two before it flew away one last time.  It’s become one of my favorite photos because of my memories of the chase and because of the amazingly good match between the grasshopper’s patterns and the sand behind it – even down to the little specks of red in both.

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is an ecologist and Eastern Nebraska Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. He supervises the management and restoration of approximately 4,000 acres of land in central and eastern Nebraska - primarily along the central Platte River. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press.
This entry was posted in General, Prairie Insects, Prairie Natural History, Prairie Photography and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Photo of the Week – November 19, 2010

  1. Hi Chris,

    Great photo! I love camouflage stories like this. My best one was sometime last summer when I was walking along a path in our woods. I walked under a tree trunk that was leaning across the path, and dozens of small moths fluttered away. I looked closely at the trunk, and found some moths that were still there – so well camouflaged that I would never have seen them. Here are links to two photos of them:

    It was very hard to tell which were moths and which was tree bark.

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Excellent photos! Yes, moths do seem to have a knack for extreme camouflage. I’ve got a post coming up about an inchworm that is even better camouflaged when it’s a larva than when it’s a moth! Makes you wonder how many things we don’t see as we’re walking, doesn’t it?

  2. Great photo, and I’m glad I ran into this blog. I’ve become quite enamored with the Great Plains as my studies become increasingly focused on its unique fauna of insects (esp. beetles) and their conservation. I’ll be checking back often and reading through your previous material as I have time.

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Glad to have you aboard! I’m an ecologist with a belated interest in insects – definitely not an entomologist, but I find it’s good to have entomologists as friends – so they can help ID my photos, if nothing else! I’ll look forward to future comments/discussions.

  3. Alex says:

    Is this a grasshopper or a rockhopper??

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