Three leaf-litter toads collected within yards of each other almost disappear on a forest floor in Panama. Staying alive in the tropics, where nearly everything is food for something else, often calls for such trickery to fool a predator's eye. Rhinella margaritifera
Three leaf-litter toads collected within yards of each other almost disappear on a forest floor in Panama. Staying alive in the tropics, where nearly everything is food for something else, often calls for such trickery to fool a predator's eye. Rhinella margaritifera

The Art of Deception

Sometimes survival means lying, stealing, or vanishing in place.

When Macbeth was told he had nothing to fear until the local woods started ambling up to his castle, the tyrant sighed with relief, for "who can impress the forest, bid the tree unfix his earth-bound root?"

Macbeth obviously had never been to Barro Colorado Island in Panama.

It is 9 p.m. and as dark as a witch's mummy, but in the cone of light cast by my headlamp, parts of trees seem to be unfixing themselves and wandering at will. A four-inch twig buzzes overhead and thuds onto a nearby branch. A lime green leaf scratches through a pile of brown leaves, finds nothing of interest, and crawls toward another pile.

Read This Next

The four-decade quest for an HIV vaccine yields new hope

In Venezuela, a quest for sainthood offers proof of miracles

South Africa plans to end controversial captive lion industry

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet