9 Female Orchid Praying Mantis
Like many insect species, the male and female orchid praying mantises of Southeast Asia have evolved to look very different from each other. The male is small and brown while the female mimics the visual appearance of the orchid flowers around which they live. This camouflage allows the females to attract insects as prey and allows the males to avoid detection while they look for a mate.
The result of this species’ evolution is a truly extraordinary female specimen. Female orchid mantises have perfected the art of masquerade. Their limbs are shaped like petals and sport spectacular pink and yellow hues. With bodies that look like fully formed orchids, they are easily mistaken for the real thing and can actually be better at attracting insects than the flowers they mimic. This is despite the fact that orchid mantis females do not mimic any particular species of orchid, but rather a generic combination of orchid-like features.
8 San Francisco Salt Ponds
If you have ever traveled to San Francisco by airplane, you may have noticed a brightly colored patchwork of ponds on the coast below. These are the Cargill Salt Ponds, which have now mostly been sold back to government and non-profit landowners for restoration.
For 150 years, salt was one of the city’s primary industries. The salt mines, which covered more than 15 thousand acres, now comprise a massive tidal wetland restoration project. This means the brilliantly colored ponds will not be there forever.
So why did the salt mines create such a colorful landscape? It’s all thanks to a microorganism, a type of algae called Dunaliella. High salt content in water causes the algae to grow into a deep red or coral pink color. In low salt content, the algae grow green.
The remarkable color array of the salt ponds is even noticeable from space; astronauts have used them as a visual marker while orbiting the planet.