August 7, 2013 —
August is upon us, and nature’s clock is letting us know in the form of nightly katydid serenades and blooming cardinal flowers along streams and wetlands. If you have seen cardinal flowers in the wild, you may also have seen many hummingbirds and swallowtail butterflies near the brilliant red blooms of the cardinal flower. This striking trait of the cardinal flower is an adaptation of the plant to help attract pollinating fauna; the birds and insects, in turn, exhibit behavioral adaptation when they are attracted by brightly colored plant inflorescence when gathering nectar or pollen.
Many adaptations are visual. Camouflage, color, patterns and shapes are common in many animals, and some insects may mimic other species in order to discourage would-be predators. Eyespots on some species of butterflies are a good example of this. Some creatures can change their color on the fly; grey tree frogs, for instance, common in the region, can change their color to suit their surroundings.
Many adaptations in nature can be found without having to venture far, and some of them can be very surprising. The images in this week’s column show some common, and not so common, nature adaptations from our region.