Crawlies with Cri: by Christy Solo

Continued from June 19

Part II
Moving on to moths: Pictured are three male wandering tiger moths. While our two tan fellows are the typical color, our orangey-orange male is rare.
There are many species of moth who can rock a range of colors and some whose colors are consistent but have uniformly changed by geographic area over decades.
Why some wandering tiger moths flash the fiery shade of a sunset while most are more earthy in color is at present a mystery.
When it comes to “moths of many colors” some variations may be genetic while some may be linked to a specific food plant (the better to blend in).
Some moths, like England’s peppered moth, evolved a darker coloration to blend in with a changing world. In the early 1800s pepper moths were light gray “peppered” with black dots.
As the Industrial Revolution sooted up southern England, the local population of peppered moths became darker and darker with each generation thus better suited to hide in plain sight on tree bark darkened by the smoke from local factories.
When it comes to our next mighty color morphing crawly, the Pacific tree frog, camo is the key to color.
Pacific tree frogs can be brown, tan, gray, dark green or bright lime green. They can also be a mix of two or three of those hues at once. Any individual Pacific tree frog can be tan in the morning and green at dinner time, while around noon they were tan with green patches.
These frogs have the chameleon-like ability to shift their shade to match their surroundings. Imagine if you could literally just fade into the wallpaper at a boring soiree!
Of course, tree frogs blend in to avoid becoming a snack for a passing predator, so their colorful ability is the secret to their survival.
Last but not least on our multi-hued list are male purple finches. The vast majority of male purple finches are, well, let’s face it – they’re raspberry colored. But whoever came up with their common name picked “purple” for their own reasons.
Sometimes, however, purple finch go for other fruit-colored looks. Some shine in lemony yellow and some are ginger peachy.
Unlike house finch, whose pale color indicates poor diet and possibly poor health, other-colored purple finches are as robust as the next bird. Their unique colors are caused by a genetic mutation, so if a flock has uniquely colored males this year, it’s likely those color variations will show up year after year, generation after generation.
Pale purple finches are rarer than pale house finch, so we don’t yet know whether or not females prefer raspberry over yellow or peach. The pale males get no flack from the flock though; socially they fit right in at the feeder and aren’t pushed down in the pecking order.
From damselflies to feathery finches, nature loves to sharpen her Crayolas and keep us on our ID toes with her rainbow of shades and hues.