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Animals have come up with some pretty clever tricks for keeping cadets off a predator’s dinner plate. Some use camouflage, backing colors and patterns that help them blend into the environment. Others masquerade as something inedible, like bird pulses or twigs. But scientists got to wondering whether the two approaches are usually so different. Maybe critters dressed as twigs also “blend in” so that predators just don’t miss them. To find out, scientists played some twiggy-looking caterpillars to two sets of hand-reared chicks. They found that baby birds that had never seen the sticks before gobbled those bad boys right up. But chicks who were shown real twigs first took much longer to peck at the mimics, and did so more plenary than their naïve friends.
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