The art of camouflage

Daintree Rainforest showcases the art of camouflage and is renowned as the World’s longest surviving rainforest.  This claim is based on the number of families of primitive flowering plants called Angiosperms that remain today.  However, the enormity of this claim is dwarfed by the intricacy and variety of inter-relationships that contribute to an eco-system that embraces rainforest and reef in a continuum of biological diversity beyond understanding.

As resident custodians, our presentation of this irreplaceable global treasure aims to expose facets of the rainforest that provide a complex picture; one that will be valued by the people who are concerned for its conservation and protection.

The refinement of strategies for survival, such as camouflage and mimicry, are indicated early in our tour.   I pause before a shrub with a bird dropping clearly showing against a vibrant green leaf.  I ask my guests to look closely.  They lean forward, peering with distaste at the white splodge with black markings.  That’s a spider, I tell them, a bird-dropping crab-spider.  Distaste changes to excitement and admiration as they see the cleverness.  I show them a web on another leaf, made by the same spider that closely resembles the white splatter of liquid in bird faeces. There is even a runnel in a dip in the leaf, simulating flowing movement.  The spider sits on its purpose-built web looking exactly like a bird-dropping.  This is its protection.  What bird wants to eat its own excrement?  Not only does the spider look like a bird-dropping, it gives out a smell that attracts insects that like to eat bird-droppings.  These insects, small beetles and flies, are swiftly grabbed by the spider, bound in webbing and left on the edge of a leaf for more leisurely ingestion.

Thornton Peak
Thornton Peak
Thornton Peak
Thornton Peak

The vastness of a rainforest, with its complexity and variety of structures and shapes can be over-whelming.  Its ever-changing beauty, the magnificent fan palm galleries alone, are features that you will never forget, but you also need to focus on finer details that contribute to a living landscape.

“I stop at another tree to point out a lichen spider, so well-camouflaged that it is hard to see, even when you know it is there.  It looks as if it has been etched into the lichen.  My guests wonder how I can find them and how I know where they will be.”


I suggest that we have to live on the land to know it.  That people have to know their environment to enable them to care for it.  This requires intimate knowledge, gathered over a lifetime and transmitted intergenerationally across aeons – just like the original Australians.

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