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Animal Coloration

Animal coloration affects the behavior

and survival of many species in the animal kingdom.

The coloration of an animal can help it blend into its environment (crypsis)

or make it stand out (aposematic).


• Coloration • Aposematic coloration • Cryptic coloration • Sexual dimorphism

Take 30 seconds.

How many frogs you can find this picture?

(Increase screen brightness) 

frogs lesson.png

How many did you find? 

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Let's try a different photo. 

Take 30 seconds. 

How many frogs can you find? 

frogs lesson2.png

How many did you find? 

Click Here

Animals use different coloration strategies to stay alive.

We'll discuss three types here.

An animal can use aposematic coloration, or warning coloration,

to alert other animals that it is potentially dangerous.

These brightly colored and boldly patterned animals stand out in their environment and advertise that they may be poisonous, venomous, or taste bad.

Examples: skunks, poison arrow frogs, bees, coral snakes, red-spotted newts and monarch butterflies.


An animal utilizing cryptic coloration blends into its surroundings. A cryptically colored animal may have coloration that breaks up its outline or that matches items in its habitat such as rocks, leaves and tree bark.

Cryptic coloration usually involves a blotchy pattern of browns, tans, greens, or any color from their environment. Some animals are capable of changing their coloration seasonally to match their surroundings, like the snowshoe hare, that changes its white winter coloration to brown in the summer.

Examples: bobcats, deer, horned lizards, green frogs and walking stick insects.

Sexual or gender dimorphism is the difference between males and females within a species of animal, and, in this case, the differences in coloration. This phenomenon is most noticeable in birds but can occur in other types of animals. Typically, the male is brightly colored to signal he is the best mate for females or to attract the attention of a predator when a male flees the nest.

Females, on the other hand, are generally duller in coloration because they must tend to the nest after eggs are laid. If a female is brightly colored while sitting on a nest, a predator could easily find her and then potentially eat her or the young.


Examples: Northern cardinals (the males are bright red, whereas females are gray/tan color), mallards (males have a green head, whereas females are brown), and ring-necked pheasants (males are brightly colored with green and red, whereas females are brown).


For each photo, use what you've learn to choose either:

a)  Aposematic coloration

b)  Cryptic coloration

c)  Sexual dimorphism









Try your best before you check! 

1.a  2.c  3.b  4.c  5.b  6.b  7.c  8.a

Thank you to Purdue University for this resource.

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