In a group of insects called green lacewings, larvae often make a habit of decorating themselves with bits of vegetation, insect carcasses, or whatever else the young pick up from their surroundings to use as a disguise as they sneak up on prey and to hide from predators such as birds.
Researchers had long speculated that this was an ancient behavior, but just how ancient was difficult to say until a recent find in Spain. There, in a forest 110 million years ago, a lacewing larvae was encased in amber along with its collection of fern pieces tangled on protrusions on its back.
Not only is this the earliest known occurrence of this behavior in lacewings, said paleoentomologist and study co-author Michael Engel at the University of Kansas, but “it’s also the earliest occurrence of this camouflaging behavior among insects as a whole.”
Lacewing larvae aren’t the only invertebrates to employ odd camouflage techniquesâ€”decorator crabs will stick live animals, such as sea anemones, on their shells to blend in with their surroundings.