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Colors in the Animal World – What do they Mean?

In the animal kingdom you will find animals displaying all sorts of different colors for different reasons, ranging from snakes, frogs, fish, birds to insects. This articles looks into explaining some of those reasons and meanings.

Warning Colors

Various sorts of animals, such as frogs, snakes, insects and arachnids display bright colors such as yellow, orange and red to signal to predators that they are poisonous, so not to eat them. Some animals also display colors black and white for the same purpose. This displaying of colors to warn predators is known as Aposematism. As-well as displaying colors, animals can also use odors and sounds to repel potential predators.

Why are Bees Yellow?

Bees are a common example of color being displayed to warn and deter predators. Poisonous frogs are among the most colorful animals, including bright yellow, orange, red and even bright blues and greens.

Many of the world’s most poisonous and deadly animals display bright colors, even the black window, the most poisonous spider displays red on its body. One of the most poisonous scorpions is called (Leiurus Quinquestriatus) also known as Deathstalker, and the Palestine Yellow Scorpion. Many of the world’s most poisonous snakes and frogs display yellow and other bright colors.

Evolution & Camouflage

Some animals adapt to their environments. This can be a quick sudden change in color, such as how the chameleon changes its appearance to camouflage itself.

Other animals change over the course of evolution. For example polar bears and arctic foxes evolved white fur to suit their frozen snowy surroundings. This evolution was gradual and likely took thousands of years.

Polar bears were believed to of originally descended from brown bears. Some of these bears began to inhabit colder and whiter habitats, and slowly evolved more body fat, and a thicker and lighter coat of fur.

Why are Polar Bears White?

Lions have evolved a yellow brownish color which blends well with the African Savannah, helping them to remain unseen while they hunt. 

Attraction

There are many animals that change and display certain colors in-order to attract a mate. The male Australian Squid will constantly change its color when trying to attract a female. Another sea life example is the Kisslip Cuttlefish, which quickly changes color for the purpose of attraction.

Male Peacocks will display their tails in-order to impress the females. The males with the most impressive tails, in terms of size and vibrancy of color will be the most successful. Peacocks have far better color vision than we humans have.  

Aggression

There are many animals that display red when acting aggressively, including humans. Blood will rush to the face and other extremities, therefore becoming reddish in color.  

Prehistoric

Palaeontologists and scientists theorise that certain prehistoric animals would display Red, by flushing blood into their large sail fins, to either show aggression or to attract a mate. The most famous of these animals was Spinosaurus, seen in Jurassic Park 3. Another animal called the Dimetrodon also had a large sail fin which may of been used for the same reasons.  

Animals Displaying Blue

There is an interesting, yet somewhat confusing fact about animals and the color blue. You have probably seen many animals display the color blue, many fish and birds for example appear blue. However only a small minority, less than 1% of animals that appear blue, are actually blue.

For an animal to truly be blue, it needs to have blue pigments, and most animals that appear blue, don’t actually have any blue pigment in them. Some animals actually create an optical illusion, known as (light scattering) which makes them appear blue, by reflecting out only blue light. Because blue is so rare in the animal kingdom, it might be away to discourage predators, by displaying an unnatural color. However this is only a theory, as scientists don’t actually know why they do this.

There are actually only two animals that we know of, that have blue pigment in them. These are the Blue Poison Dart Frog, and the Olive Wing Butterfly.