For certain animals, “going green” is more than just a trendy phrase… it’s a lifestyle! Indeed, green animals wear their chosen colors on their sleeves – their greensleeves, as it were. Green is the color of life, money and Ireland; and for these 10 amazing creatures, every day is St. Patrick’s Day!
Insects are the original green mimics, adopting the predominant shade of the plants they live amongst as a way to hide from predators and conceal themselves from their prey.
Beetles, caterpillars, spiders, flies and more incorporate green pigments into their exoskeletons and skins; an incredible achievement in color matching that has evolved incrementally over hundreds of millions of years!
One of the biggest, greenest, and arguably meanest of insects is the Praying Mantis. Approximately 2,200 mantis species have been identified and all are exclusively predatory. Larger mantises have been known to take down frogs, lizards, snakes, rodents and even birds! Of course, the Praying Mantis’ main claim to fame is the fatal attraction the female mantis has for her mate. As Don Dixon puts it in his classic homage to predatory females of ANY species, “She wanted his body so much, she ate his brain.”
In contrast to insects that have embraced the color green while living in a verdant world of plant life, animals of the oceans, lakes and rivers are usually tinted anything but green. The examples of green marine life above owe much to ambient lighting conditions for their bilious hues.
(image via: LiveScience)
There are some outstanding exceptions to the rule of green sea creature rarity, such as the sea slug Elysia Chlorotica. Though unarguably an animal, this unappealing animal has incorporated green chloroplast cells from algae it has eaten into its skin, allowing it to derive energy from sunlight just as plants do. Pretty cool… for a slug!
As amphibians, frogs are air-breathing but need sources of water to keep their skins moist and to act as growth mediums for their gilled larval stages. As such, frogs are usually found in rainforests and wetlands where being green serves as a natural form of camouflage. Green frogs can be striped, spotted, and in the case of actual Green Frogs, solid green.
(image via: GameSpot)
Tree frogs are among the greenest of the frogs if one uses color intensity as a benchmark. In many cases, however, their brilliant green skins are complemented by big, bulbous eyes of a contrasting color. Green-skinned tropical frogs are usually not poisonous; those that are, typically have skins that are extremely visible against the constant green of rainforest foliage.
Lizards often display bright green coloration to help them blend in with the flora within which they eat, sleep and live their lives. Many pet owners are familiar with Green Anole lizards, popular pets that are native to southeastern United States. Anoles are not chameleons but can change their skin color in a broad range from brilliant green to dusky brown to match their local habitat.
(image via: TropicaLiving)
The young Green Iguana above looks like it has no need to hide from anyone or anything – it appears almost dinosaur-like. No surprise that iguanas were often used as “actors” in early sci-fi or horror films when a Battle Of Prehistoric Monsters was called for.
Green Turtles can be found in all the world’s warmer oceanic waters and over a lifespan estimated at up to 80 years they can grow to enormous sizes – the heaviest on record weighed in at 395 kilograms (870 pounds). True marine turtles with flippers for limbs, Green Turtles can migrate extremely long distances from their feeding grounds to their preferred nesting beaches.
(image via: All About Sea Turtles)
Although decidedly greener in hue than other large sea turtles, Green Turtles get their name not from their outside but their inside. Specifically, the turtles have a layer of green-tinged fat that separates their internal organs from the inner side of the carapace.
Snakes of various species can exhibit some of the most beautiful shades of green seen on any living creatures. The green pigmentation of snakes has less to do with their species than with their habitat – like other animals, green serves as an effective camouflage whether one is catching dinner, or avoiding being one. Most North Americans have seen the Smooth Green Snake or Grass Snake, a small (up to 1 meter or 3 feet) insect-eating snake common in the United States and southern Canada.
(image via: ScienceRay)
Another exquisitely tinted – though extremely dangerous – green snake is the Green Mamba, found in forested areas of eastern and southern Africa. Green Mambas are smaller and less aggressive than their feared cousins, the Black Mambas, but untreated bites are often fatal as their potent venom quickly paralyzes the victim’s heart and lungs.
The bird at above top is a yellow-green grosbeak, found in Panama and the northern part of South America. If you’re looking for seriously green birds, however, the parrot family is a great start. From common budgies to strikingly beautiful (and surprisingly intelligent) Amazon Parrots, these large and loud birds highlight their predominantly green feathers with dashes of red, yellow and blue.
(image via: Kelli L)
Scaly-breasted Lorikeets like the one pictured above really stand out among other green birds, though you’d be hard pressed to spot one in its natural habitat of Australia’s woodlands. So closely do their green feathers, yellow trim and scalloped patterning resemble the appearance of a fully leafed-out tree that skilled naturalists look instead for the coral-colored beak – most often, there’s a Scaly-breasted Lorikeet attached to it.
There are no green mammals per se, but there IS one that often appears green: the Tree Sloth. Whether it’s of the Two-toed or Three-toed variety, sloths are SLOW… so slow, blue-green algae grows in and on their fur during rainier parts of the year. This isn’t a bad thing, as sloths are preyed upon by Harpy Eagles and blending in with their leafy surroundings (and moving very, very slowly) makes it harder for those eagle-eyed eagles to spy them.
(image via: ABDN)
Sloths have evolved a symbiotic relationship with algae, as over time greener sloths would have a survival rate and therefore, more children. The hair of a sloth, when seen through a microscope, is grooved lengthwise and is very pitted, offering algae a hospitable environment.
Green Polar Bears
(image via: Anita)
Polar Bears in their natural habitat appear white, light tan or – in older individuals – very pale yellow. It’s only when they are kept in captivity that another shade rears its ugly head.
Zoos in warmer, humid countries like Japan have had problems controlling algae growth on their resident Polar Bears. This isn’t a problem for the bears, though visitors to these zoos may be surprised and concerned by the sight of green bears. The algae issue is different from that of green sloths: the sloths encourage algae growth while the bears are unable to prevent it.
(image via: Anorak)
Algae aside, Polar Bears aren’t actually green but they aren’t white either, they just look that way because their transparent hairs are hollow, trapping light (and heat). If one really wants to be particular, it could be said that Polar Bears are black: without their hair, the bears’ skin is visibly very dark brown to black in color.
Green Transgenic Animals
(image via: Daily Mail UK)
From fruit flies to fish to man’s best friend, a ghostly green glow shines out from a gaggle of genetically modified animals – and you can guess who’s next. You might ask, what’s the point of getting animals to glow in the dark? Well, that eerie green (or sometimes red) glow acts as both a test to see if the introduced gene has “took”, and a marker to indicate whether another gene has been incorporated successfully by the host creature.
If the offspring of so-called transgenic animals also glow, researchers know that the new gene has been passed on to the next generation. Much easier to just shine a UV light then to kill the animal to perform lengthy diagnostic tests.
The genes used in these tests typically come from bioluminescent animals like jellyfish. Often, there’s no way to tell if a creature is transgenic until the UV light is turned on. In other cases the odd greenish tint is obvious to the naked eye under normal lighting conditions. The possibilities of this type of research are very exciting, not to mention, er, colorful.
Bonus Green-ness: Little Green Men (and Women)
As mentioned, these experiments are paving the way for radical new medical treatments humanity will benefit from in the future. One wonders, though, if side-effects from gene transfer research will have us, like today’s transgenic animals, glowing green as well.