The ability to hide is often a matter of life and death in the wild where predators are just waiting to find the perfect meal. Some reptiles have developed the ability to hide in plain sight with coloration to camouflage in their surroundings.
What are some reptiles that can camouflage?
There are various lizards and snakes that are masters of camouflage, often displaying color patterns and/or textures similar to the background of their homes. While some of these are wild, there are some camouflaged reptiles that can also be kept as pets, like the scarlet kingsnake, dragon lizards, and geckos.
We’ll dive into nine amazing reptiles that use their coloration to blend into their surroundings to hide from predators, sneak up on prey, or even warn others not to come near. We’ll also take a look at some snakes and reptiles that can change colors both for camouflage and for other reasons.
Finally, stay tuned to see who wins the prize for the best camouflage of any reptile – the answer may surprise you!
9 Wild and Pet Reptiles That Can Camouflage
Let’s get started and take a tour through the world of hidden reptiles and see how good your “I Spy” game is!
1. Gaboon Viper
Gaboon vipers are not snakes that you want to trifle with. These six foot long vipers are the largest in Africa, using their camouflage to surprise unsuspecting small mammals to eat for dinner.
The light and brown patterns down its back blend in with the leaf litter on the forest floor and its head looks exactly like a dead leaf. If you’re traipsing through the African rainforests beware of these venomous vipers – you won’t see them, but they’ll see you!
2. Aegean Wall Lizard
The Aegean wall lizard is a daredevil among reptiles that relies on its camouflage to stay alive. These lizards can be found on the islands of Greece resting out in the open on rock walls while predatory birds fly overhead.
They blend so perfectly with the rocks that they remain undetected. Scientists have even discovered that Aegean wall lizards choose their own wall to camouflage against and they are less camouflaged on other lizards’ walls.
3. Scarlet Kingsnake
The scarlet kingsnake is a master of deception but not in the normal way of camouflage. These snakes display a special kind of camouflage called mimicry. Their banding closely resembles the deadly coral snake.
Since most potential predators recognize the warning colors of the coral snake, the kingsnake relies on similar color patterns to slither undetected through predator territory. What makes these snakes even better is that they can be kept as pets.
Scarlet kingsnakes are not good snakes for beginners. However, more experienced snake owners can find a rewarding experience in keeping a scarlet kingsnake as a pet.
4. Blue-lipped Forest Anole
Similar to other forest dwelling lizards, the blue-lipped forest anole has the keen ability to look just like the dried and dead leaves that are scattered across the forest floor. The pattern of light and dark browns that break up their bodies make these little lizards difficult to see.
Only when they display their bright blue dewlap – or throat fan – are they recognized as something other than leaf litter. For these anoles, showing off their throat fan to a potential mate is worth the risk of being spotted by a predator!
5. Black-spotted Kangaroo Lizard
Black-spotted kangaroo lizards are commonly found on the forest floor of Sri Lankan jungles. Just like the precious lizards we’ve discussed, they blend in with the leaf litter thanks to their brown mottled pattern.
However, this lizard also has patches of bright green not only to help attract mates but also to bring further confusion to predators by breaking up their form. It can be hard to tell if what you’re looking at is a bright spring green leaf amid the dead foliage or a lizard staring up at you!
6. Dragon Lizards
Dragon lizards, like the lovable bearded dragon that many reptile enthusiasts favor as pets, are excellent camouflage artists.
Whether they are living in the deserts among rocks and sand or in scrubland with low scraggly brush, their coloring reflects their surroundings to hide them from any potential predators.
Studies have also found that dragon lizards can change their coloration like chameleons, although this may be driven by thermoregulation more than camouflage. Either way, try changing up your bearded dragon’s habitat to see if it will go with the flow to blend in.
7. Western Diamond Back Rattlesnake
You may not know you’re in the presence of a western diamond back rattlesnake until you hear the telltale dry rattle of its tail. Thanks to the distinctive diamond pattern on its back this dangerous snake can hide among dead leaves completely undetected.
Western diamond back rattlesnakes typically stay so still you won’t be able to see them until it’s too late. Not only does this type of camouflage help hide it from unsuspecting prey but also keeps it safe from predators such as raptors circling overhead.
8. Desert Horned Lizard
Desert horned lizards may be small, but they have a unique advantage over would-be predators. Their flat bodies are colored to match the surrounding sands from gray to brown to hints of red.
Additionally, the horny texture of their skin mimics the coarse substrate that occupies the desert habitats in which they live. Don’t be surprised the next time you’re in the desert if the ground “starts moving” – you probably just startled a desert horned lizard you didn’t even know was there.
Geckos come in all sizes and colors but one thing they all have in common is their ability to mask their appearance. Their camouflage adaptations are so impressive that you would have an easier time spotting Waldo in one of his famous hide and seek books than you would a gecko two inches from your face on a tree.
The leaf-tailed geckos are the most famous for their ability to blend in. Mossy leaf-tailed geckos, giant leaf-tailed geckos, and satanic leaf-tailed geckos are just some of the varieties that disguise as tree bark, lichen, moss, and dead leaf litter.
The best part is that these little lizards make great pets so you can witness their amazing feats of disguise from the comfort of your own home!
What Lizard Has the Best Camouflage?
Of all the lizards found all over the world, the ultimate winner for best camouflage goes to…the satanic leaf tailed gecko!
Just see if you can spot the lizard hiding amid the forest leaf litter in these shots that highlight these camouflage masters:
Leaf-tailed geckos are the hardest reptiles to spot in the wild, blending in with the moss and lichen on tree trunks and disguising themselves as dead leaves. Any predator would have to have a keen eye to spot them.
What makes these little reptiles even better is that they are great pets. They are fairly simple to care for and require high humidity to mimic their tropical island homes. Amaze your friends with your hidden pet and the champion of reptilian hide and seek!
What Reptiles Can Change Colors?
Some reptiles give colorful displays that have nothing to do with camouflage. In fact, there are many different reptiles including some you can keep as pets that change color for various reasons.
Perhaps the most well-known example of a color changing reptile is the chameleon. Many believe that camouflage is the reason for a chameleon’s change in hues; however, this is hard to justify considering the brilliant shades they can display. Most of their colorful displays are in response to social cues such as mating or simple communication, or to show status like pregnancy, dominance, or irritation.
Painted terrapins will adopt brilliant blue, red, and black markings during mating season and then change back to their regular brown the rest of the year. Even their shells will change to a paler shade to accentuate the bright colorings on their head and neck.
Bearded dragons, Lake Eyre dragons, and anoles also change color to communicate with their peers or if the weather changes. In addition to social cues, color changes in these reptiles may also serve as ways to regulate their body temperature. When the sun is out, they will turn a darker shade in order to absorb more ultraviolet radiation to heat their bodies.
Iguanas are the original mood rings with bright happy greens when they are feeling good that can quickly change to darker shades if they are angry or stressed. Like dragons and anoles, iguanas may also shift color shades to help with thermoregulation.
Geckos classically change their colors to blend in with their surroundings and camouflage themselves from predators. Most of these reptiles also make great pets so you can have a vibrant reptilian friend that may be able to communicate with you through color!
Is There a Color Changing Snake?
Lizards and turtles aren’t the only masters of color changing – there are a few species of snake that can put on a show as well.
The snake that is getting the most attention for its ability to change colors is the Papuan mud snake. Recently discovered in Borneo, this venomous snake will change from its dark reddish brown to pale white in seconds to warn potential predators of the danger it poses to them.
Other snakes that change colors include the Papuan python which may change colors in response to stress or agitation and the Round Island keel scaled boa which becomes darker during the day to absorb more UV rays from the sun.
Another notable color changing snake is the green tree python. Although this species doesn’t change shades in response to social cues, as it matures it will shift from yellow or red juveniles to its trademark shade of green as adults. Some green tree pythons may also turn a rare shade of blue when they become adults.
Camouflage is a special adaptation in nature that helps animals go undetected by predators and prey. Many reptiles show amazing camouflage by disguising themselves to look like leaves, moss, sandy substrate, and even other deadlier animals. From the desert to the rainforest, these masters of disguise teach us what it means to stay hidden.
Although this trait is meant for survival, some of these reptiles also make great pets. You can watch firsthand the blending in of satanic leaf-tailed geckos or the color changing phenomena of chameleons.
Of all the wacky reptilian abilities, camouflage has got to be one of the coolest. They give a whole new meaning to a simple game of hide and seek!