THE LANGUAGE OF COLOURS


Just as colours are important for people in making sense of their surroundings, so are they indispensable for other living beings to survive.

Living beings have a "colour language" that works according to the light and the systems of perception they possess. Different colours bear different meanings for every living being. In order to survive, every living being has to know the language of colours used in its habitat, because vital functions can only be controlled by acknowledgement of this language.
So, how do living beings use this colour language?

First, the majority of living beings need the help of colours in order to find food. Second, the colours that exist on formations such as skin, scales and fur play an important role in the continuity of life due to their characteristics of absorbing or diffusing heat. In addition, living things use their colourings to protect themselves from their enemies. Owing to colours that harmonise with their habitat, they can camouflage themselves and hide from their enemies. Alternatively, their colourings and patterning may pose a discouraging image for their enemies.



Mother birds feed their chicks according to the colours of their gapes.

Colours also help animals to recognise their mates and chicks. A mother bird, for example, understands whether her chicks need food or not from the colours of their gapes. Similarly, the chick recognises its mother in this way and understands that the food has arrived. As seen in these examples in nature, living beings need to know the meaning of colours in order to survive. In order to attain this knowledge correctly they need to possess proper systems of perception.

If they did not have these systems, they would not be able to perceive their surroundings properly or carry out their vital activities. They would not be able to recognise their foods or discriminate their enemies. Therefore, in this latter case they would stand out from the outside world and be an easy prey doomed to death.

Surely, no one can claim that such sophisticated systems might have come into existence by coincidence. Every system, every harmony, every design, every program, every plan, every balance must be created by a designer. There is certainly a higher will and power that has perfectly placed this harmony in living beings and the habitats in which they live. The owner of this power encompasses both the surroundings and the living being itself and the systems it uses with a higher knowledge. The owner of this power is Allah, Lord of the worlds.

When we examine living beings, we see how skilfully they employ the language of colours. Here are some examples of the language of colours, which has such an important place in the life of living beings:



Allah creates every colour on earth. The sky, mountains, crops, butterflies, red apples, oranges, parrots, pheasants, violet grapes, trees, in short, everything you see in your surroundings, possess these colours because Allah wills so. Allah states this fact in a verse as follows:

Do you not see that Allah sends down water from the sky and by it We bring forth fruits of varying colours? And in the mountains there are streaks of white and red, of varying shades, and rocks of deep jet black. And mankind and beasts and livestock and likewise of varying colours. Only those of His slaves with knowledge have fear of Allah. Allah is Almighty, Ever-Forgiving. (Surah Fatir: 27-28)

Camouflage



In the picture is a grasshopper imitating the bark of a tree. The camouflage employed by the grasshopper is so perfect that even the designs of the lichens on the tree are present on it. This is a perfect creation of Allah.

Camouflage is one of the most effective defence tactics that animals use. Self-camouflaging animals are under some kind of protection because of their body structures, which are created in great harmony with their habitats. The bodies of these animals are so harmonious with their environments that when you look at their pictures, it is almost impossible to tell if they are plants or animals, or to distinguish an animal and a plant present in the same environment from each other.

The living creatures that adapt their colourings according to the environments in which they live have always attracted the attention of scientists. Research focuses on finding an answer to the question of how a living creature can look exactly the same as a creature that is of a completely different structure.

Have you ever thought, for instance, how a frog, which, while walking in the garden, you took for a leaf, and then at the last moment skipped a step and avoided stepping on it, has it come to possess these patterns and colour? Camouflage is a very important defence mechanism for a frog. The frog that is unnoticed in its environment easily loses its enemies.

While a pink spider on a pink flower can successfully take on the flower's different shades of pinks of, another member of the same spider species can adapt to the colour of another flower, for instance, a yellow one, when it climbs on it.

While someone is looking at a branch, thinking there is nothing on it, a butterfly may fly away from it all of a sudden. This butterfly, which looked exactly like a leaf down to the dry, autumn-withered parts a second ago, is a perfect example of the miracle of camouflage.

As will be seen in the following pages, the similarity of living creatures to the objects on which they rest prevents their enemies from noticing them. It is obvious that these camouflaging creatures have not made themselves, on their own initiative, look like leaves, branches or flowers. What's more, they are not even aware that they are protected because of these similarities. Nevertheless, they employ camouflage very skilfully in all our examples without exception. An insect having the same colour as a flower, a snake standing still as a tree's branch, a frog adapting to the colour of wet ground, in short, all self-camouflaging creatures are evidence proving that camouflage is a specially created defence tactic.No living creature can perform such a task on its own or by coincidence. Certainly, He Who bestows upon living creatures the ability to camouflage themselves, and places the chemical processes in them by which they can carry out this colour change, is Allah, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.


The Misumena varia species of crab spiders seen on the left can assume different colours ranging from yellow to white, depending on the flower on which they land.17 The spider species seen above stops moving only when the colour and configuration of the plant are those best suited to hide it.


In the photograph on the left are two myriapods that have developed almost identical coloration to the plants on which they live. In this way, they are protected from their enemies.






Some insect species protect themselves from their enemies by means of group camouflage. For instance, Phiatids, a species of tropical Hemiptera found in Madagascar, has full and brilliantly coloured wings. When they are resting on a tree trunk, as in this photograph, they resemble an inflorescence. This misleads the hunters that look for insects.

The cheetah is no easier to distinguish in the tall grass; this is because hundreds of small spots break up the lines of the animal's body. The bright sunlight emphasises the black spots of the cheetah, increasing the mottled or "broken" effect of the body's outline.

In the dry grass of the savannah, a hunting lioness is almost invisible, as the colours of the lioness tend to blend with the environment.


Camouflage does not only take place on the surface of the skin. The muscles of some species of frogs that live in the tropical forests of South America are coloured. The blood contains oxygen-conveying cells. Therefore, changes brought about by the need for camouflage not only take place on the surface of the skin but also within the body.

In the picture above is a land frog that changes its colour according to weather conditions.

Dead twigs and leaves become dark when wet. In the same manner, frogs and toads also change colour in wet weather, becoming darker. This change makes sure that they remain well camouflaged among the wet twigs and leaves. It is not possible for this amazing harmony to be coincidental.

A small, leaf-shaped frog blends in with the substratum of a forest in Malaysia. The frog is best camouflaged when viewed from above - that is, from the angle at which the predator is most likely to view it. In the picture to the right is a frog of another species, which appears like part of the tree. It is quite difficult to distinguish both living things from the environment.

In the daytime, or during the hours when predators are most active, the majority of mimetic animals remain immobile. Even the slightest movement could betray their whereabouts. The sensory apparatus of a predator is extremely sensitive to movement. For instance, this Brazilian grasshopper is indistinguishable from the blades of grass upon which it has landed.

In the picture above, is a stick insect. Stick insects camouflage themselves in order to escape their predators. Mimetic ability, however, is not confined to adult insects in myriapods; the eggs are also camouflaged. On the ground, they look very much like vegetable seeds. It is impossible for a living creature to create colours in its body so as to be the same as its environment or to make its shape resemble that of another species. Allah, Who is their Creator, has given these features to all camouflaging creatures.

In the photographs grasshoppers are seen imitating leaves. A central vein and two symmetrical halves on two sides of this vein, which are present in the general structure of leaves, are also fully present in these grasshoppers as seen in the photographs.

In the photograph on the left is a mantis, which is almost invisible among the pink flowers. As opposed to the majority of other mantises, whose bodies have a long and narrow first segment or prothorax, in this Costa Rican species (in the picture to the right) this segment has a different design that makes it similar to the leaves on which the mantis lives.

The patterns on the grasshopper below are very similar to traces of a kind of parasitic fungus on leaves. In addition, since its long legs could betray a grasshopper's presence, the legs of some grasshoppers, as is the case with the grasshopper seen here, are almost transparent. Surely, the animals themselves do not consciously choose to do these imitations that are so perfect as not to leave out the dry parts and folds of a leaf. Allah, Who creates everything perfectly, created the grasshoppers.

Marco Ferrari, Colors for Survival, Barnes and Noble Books, New York, 1992