Here's the answer - the 20mm flightless nymph Gumleaf Grasshopper, Goniaea australasiae, blends in perfectly with its eucalypt leaf-litter habitat
Here it is, but it's even well camouflaged at close inspection, appearing just like a stick. Notice how the hind legs project at an angle giving the impression of further twigs.
As well as using colour and structure to blend into their surroundings, many insects go one step further by adopting behaviour that also mimics the movement around them. For example, stick insects and mantids will often move in a rocking motion when detected, to resemble a leaf or twig blowing in the gentle breeze. If you've encountered these creatures, you will be aware of this impressive display of deceipt.
Insects depending on camouflage remain motionless for long periods of time, some, like praying mantids, then striking at lightning speed when prey passes, unsuspectingly, right by the camouflaged creature. And some insects that resemble dead foliage will drop to the ground if disturbed, as if they are the real thing being dislodged from a plant.
This 50mm moth blended well into the mulch of my garden, but in its natural surroundings of leaf-litter, it would disappear almost entirely.
Some insects are flattened to look like leaves, others are elongated like twigs, and some even imitate objects like bird droppings, dead foliage, flower petals, and undesirable poisonous or nasty-tasting insect species. Some invertebrates will imitate other species in the ultimate game of deception. As some predators will only eat live insects, some invertebrates will even play dead. Ingenious methods of deceipt and camouflage employed by insects are endless.
The importance of insects
Insects suffer from an image problem: many, perhaps most people, consider insects as nasty, annoying, insignificant beasties to be squashed, sprayed or otherwise disposed of.
Regular readers of my nature blog will be aware of my fascination and respect for the flying and crawling invertebrates that make their homes in my backyard. I didn't always feel appreciation or regard for hairy spiders or scary creepy crawlies, and I am still occasionally faced with challenging (read, frightening) encounters of the bug or spider kind. But commonsense and a healthy dose of caution usually guide my actions.
"In Australia insects make up 75% of the known species of animals with the majority of these unique to Australia. Despite this diversity and abundance, many species are known only from a name and a specimen. Our lack of knowledge about insect habitats and ecology is a major barrier to their conservation. Without this knowledge we are unaware if species are threatened with extinction from habitat destruction or other threatening processes. Many insect species may already have been lost without us becoming aware that they existed at all." [ref: Australian Museum]
The stick-shape of the praying mantis provides means of camouflage amongst the twigs of a shrub
Insects out-number any other taxonomic group on Earth, and perform many important tasks. Scientists proclaim that most other life forms, like amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals would become extinct if insects disappeared, because of the domino effect that would occur in the food chain.
Pollination of plants and crops is a major role of insects. The vast majority of pollinators are flying insects. In many places, it is likely that the essential service of pollinators could be at risk due to habitat loss and pesticide use. Although pollination is a by-product of nectar-feeding and pollen-collecting insects, it is essential to the continued existence of many plants. It is estimated that two-thirds of all flowering plants depend on pollinating insects for this service.
Although some insects are pests to humans and their pets, stock and crops as they carry disease and consume or damage plants, pest or harmful insects are a minority.
Insects and other arthropods aerate the soil, and control insect and plant pests; they also decompose dead materials, thereby reintroducing nutrients into the soil. Burrowing invertebrates such as ants and beetles dig tunnels that provide channels for water, benefiting plants. And insects provide food for insects and other arthropods, reptiles, birds and mammals.
What are arthropods?
Joint-legged animals without backbones are called arthropods. Arthropods make up over 75% of the world's animal species, and include animals such as insects, crustaceans (eg. crabs and lobsters) and arachnids (eg. spiders and ticks). The largest group of arthropods are the insects. Other arthropods include centipedes and millipedes.
Some spiders also find it necessary to employ the art of camouflage. The Garden Wolf Spider (Lycosa godeffroyi) positions its hind legs over its abdomen to break up the round shape when it is caught out during daylight - an effective camouflage technique, don't you think?
Arthropods have a jointed body, an exoskeleton (external skeleton), and at least six jointed legs. Characteristics of arthropods, along with features which distinguish insects from other arthropods are explained in this link in an easy-to-read fashion.
A large Garden Orb Spider (Eriophora transmarina) takes advantage of decayed flowers to disguise its shape, remaining motionless, but in full view of potential predators - it looks safely camouflaged to me
And this caterpillar is not only camouflaged by its green colour and flattened form matching the leaves, its outstretched posture takes the imitation to another level (notice it even has a pointed tip)
Humans generally view insects and arachnids as pests and vermin that need to be controlled. They usually are not considered as something to be preserved. But insects play a major role in functioning ecosystems. They must be preserved because of their inherent values but also because we need them for human survival.
Insect cocoons, egg-sacs and pupae are also expertly camouflaged - but that's another story
All these photos of camouflage examples except the Gumleaf Grasshopper were taken in my backyard, so I'm pleased to say that my garden has a healthy and diverse invertebrate population.