Animals use coloring, texture and markings to blend into their environments. Predators use camouflage to make it hard for their preys to see them sneak up. Other animals use camouflage to hide from their predators.

There are four basic types of camouflage:
  1. Concealing Coloration: when an animal hides itself against a background of the same color. There are many well-known examples of this type of camouflage (e.g., polar bears, artic fox, snowshoe hare). Concealing coloration camouflage is one of the reasons why many animals living in the Artic are white, while many animals living in forests are brown (e.g.,  deers). 

    A snowshoe hare has white fur in winter. But this color is not a good for camouflage purposes during summer. During summer, this hare grows a brown colored coat. (See picture.) Since a hare's coat/fur, like our hair or fingernails, is made up dead cells, it can not just change the color of its coat. Instead it has to shed its winter coat and grow a new coat in summer.

    While mammals and birds can not change colors rapidly, some reptiles and fish can change colors in a flash. Chameleons change color to hide themselves and sometimes to show their mood! The octopus can not only change color but can also change the texture of their skin (to blend with their surroundings even better).

  2. Disruptive Coloration: The stripes, spots or other patterns on some animals are used to make it hard for other animals to see the outline of their bodies. A herd of zebras crowded together might look like one large mass to a lion rather several zebras. This makes it hard for the lion to single out a weak zebra and come up with a good plan of attack. (Some additional information about Zebra stripes can be found below.)

    Tigers and leopards also use disruptive coloration. Predators like leopard move around in low branches. Their spots helps them hide well in such an environment where there lots of shadows of leafs and spots of light come through. So they don't stick out against such a background.

  3. Disguise: This is like concealing coloration except that the animals blend in with their surroundings by their shape and/or texture rather than color. 

    Most of the examples of creatures that use this type of camouflage are insects. Examples include Katydid, Indian leaf butterfly, and Walking stick insect. There are lots of pictures online (e.g., here, here and here).

  4. Mimicry: Animals that use mimicry are imposters. They mimic the characteristics of unappetizing animals. A monarch butterfly is toxic and unappetizing to birds. Viceroy butterflies safeguard themselves from birds who prey upon them by looking a lot like monarch butterflies. (See picture.) 

    A hawk moth also uses mimicry. This picture of a hawk moth tells the whole story.

 Most of the material (above) on the different types of camouflage have been taken from Nova's site on camouflage and Sacremento Zoo's site.

More on Zebra Stripes
The zebra's stripes also helps it hide well in tall grass from the lions. Even though the a zebra's stripes are black and white, whereas the color of grass is green or brown, the stripes also provide effective camouflage because lions are color blind!

Zebra's stripe patterns are like our fingerprints. Every zebra has its own arrangement. Zoologists believe that this is how a zebra knows who is who in its herd.