From Demiguises to wild disguises

Explore the stories behind the Fantastic Beasts™: The Wonder of Nature exhibition. How creatures in the natural world use camouflage and invisibility to protect themselves.

The Natural History Museum

Fantastic Beasts bookThe Natural History Museum

‘Luckily, some species do not require much wizarding assistance in avoiding the notice of Muggles™. Creatures such as the Tebo, the Demiguise and the Bowtruckle have their own highly effective means of camouflage and no intervention by the Ministry of Magic has ever been necessary on their behalf.’
– Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them™

DemiguiseThe Natural History Museum


'The Demiguise is found in the Far East, though only with great difficulty, for this beast is able to make itself invisible when threatened and can only be seen by wizards skilled in its capture.

The Demiguise is a peaceful herbivorous beast, something like a graceful ape in appearance, with large, black, doleful eyes more often than not hidden by its hair. The whole body is covered with long, fine, silky, silvery hair. Demiguise pelts are highly valued as the hair may be spun into Invisibility cloaks.'
– Newt Scamander, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them™

Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.

Demiguise handbag Demiguise handbagThe Natural History Museum


When Dougal the Demiguise was accidentally set loose in New York City, Newt Scamander™ managed to locate the invisible creature when his friend Jacob spotted this handbag floating in mid-air.


Vanishing acts

It is difficult to be completely invisible without magic, but many animals have evolved remarkable ways of 'disappearing' to help them survive.

Discover some of the natural world's masters of disguise, from colour-changing cuttlefishes to insects that looks like sticks and leaves.

ChameleonThe Natural History Museum

Common chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon)

Chameleons are famed for their colour-changing abilities.

However when it comes to camouflage, chameleons only make small adjustments to the shade of their generally green or brown skin when they are trying to blend in.

Research shows that the bursts of red, orange and yellow seen in some chameleons are used to attract mates or scare off rivals rather than to help them hide.

Amazing ability
Changing colour to communicate

Where to find them
Hiding among the leaves of trees in North Africa and the Mediterranean

Peppered mothThe Natural History Museum

Peppered moth (Biston betularia)

This moth is able to remain hidden in plain view by matching its colour to its background.


Amazing ability
Blending into the background

Where to find them
Across Asia, Europe and North America
This moth was found blending into tree bark in the Museum's Wildlife Garden.

Rock ptarmiganThe Natural History Museum

Rock ptarmigan (Lagopus muta)

In order to hide in plain sight, ptarmigans rely on disruptive colouration. This is when animals have stripes, spots or other patterns that break up the outline of their bodies, making them harder to see.

Amazing ability
Keeping hidden against a variety of backdrops

Where to find them
Across Arctic and subarctic Eurasia and North America

Rock ptarmiganThe Natural History Museum

As their spots and colours would be of little use in the winter, this bird changes its plumage to pure white for the season.

JaguarThe Natural History Museum

Jaguar (Panthera onca)

A jaguar's fur is covered in dark, rose-shaped markings called rosettes, which disrupt the outline of their bodies, making them harder to see. This helps the jaguar to remain hidden as it stalks and ambushes prey.

Researchers have found that markings like these evolved specifically in large cats that hunt in forests or during the night.


Amazing ability
Staying hidden among leaves and shadows cast by trees

Where to find them
Pouncing on mammals such as giant anteaters in the forests and grasslands of Central and South America

Pale throated slothThe Natural History Museum

Pale-throated sloth (Bradypus tridactylus)

The sloth's slow movement as it hangs from branches high overhead – as well as its brown fur – help it stay hidden from predators.

During the rainy season, microscopic plant-like organisms (Trichophilus spp.) grow on the sloth's wet fur. Some scientists suspect this coating may make sloths even harder to spot.

Pale throated sloth Pale throated slothThe Natural History Museum


Amazing ability
Growing their own green camouflage

Where to find them
Blending in among the trees of South America

CystisomaThe Natural History Museum

A see-through amphipod (Cystisoma magna)

This shrimp-like animal called an amphipod lives in the deep ocean, where there is nowhere to hide. Apart from its eyes and egg pouch, its body is entirely transparent, making it almost invisible.

Scientists have recently discovered that its body is covered in tiny bumps that help prevent light from bouncing off the surface. This makes it even more difficult to see.

Fantastic feature
Being almost entirely see-through

Where to find them
In all the world's oceans, up to 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) below the surface

Caribbean reef octopusThe Natural History Museum

Caribbean reef octopus (Octopus briareus)

Octopuses have specialised cells under their skin that allow them to instantly change colour.

Amazing ability
As well as being able to change colour, they can also change texture to mimic their marine surroundings

Where to find them
In warm waters near coral reefs around Central and South America, and in the Pacific Ocean

CuttlefishThe Natural History Museum

Common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis)

A cuttlefish can change the colour and texture of its skin to look like a craggy coral or a sandy sea floor in under a second.

Cuttlefishes' soft bodies make them vulnerable so they have evolved to camouflage to escape predators.

A cuttlefish has special cells called chromatophores. Each of these cells contains sacs of colour that can expand and contract, enabling cuttlefishes to change colour in an instant.

Amazing ability
Changing colour as well as texture to blend in with their background

Where to find them
Up to 200 metres (700 feet) below the surface in temperate ocean waters around the world

Dead leaf butterflyThe Natural History Museum

Dead leaf butterfly (Kallima inachus)

The underside of these butterflies' wings are a dull brown, veiny pattern. Dead leaf butterflies have evolved to look just like dry, shrivelled leaves.

By simply closing their wings to hide their bright colouring, dead leaf butterflies can hide in plain sight.

Amazing ability
Looking just like dried leaves

Where to find them
Fluttering in the forests of East and South Asia

Common potooThe Natural History Museum

Common potoo (Nyctibius griseus)
This bird is not just coloured like a log, it acts like one too. Perching at the end of a dead tree branch, it tilts itself to look like the branch, and completes the trick by partially closing its huge orange eyes.

The potoo trusts its camouflage and remains completely motionless, only flying away when a predator is too close for comfort.

Amazing ability
Mimicking tree branches

Where to find them
The forests of Central and South America

Stick insectsThe Natural History Museum

Stick and leaf insects (Phasmida)

Thousands of insect species have evolved to take the shape, colour and even texture of the sticks and leaves they live among.

By day, stick and leaf insects generally remain as still as possible to avoid being eaten by birds, but some rock back and forth to mimic the movement of swaying branches and leaves.


Amazing ability
Pretending to be plants

Where to find them
Look for leaf insects in Southeast Asia and Australia. Stick insects can be found (with great difficulty) all over the world

Credits: Story

For more information and to book tickets to the exhibition, visit the Museum's website.

To find out more about the Wizarding World, visit WizardingWorld.com

WIZARDING WORLD and all related trademarks, characters, names, and indicia are © & ™ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Publishing Rights © JKR. (s21)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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