deer plants

Animal or Plant?

By Kathy Kranking

Are these animals that look like plants or plants that look like animals?

deer plantsYou can probably tell that these “deer” are made of plants. But there are lots of actual animals that look like plants, too. And there are even some plants that look like animals. Check out each picture on the following pages and try to guess whether it shows an animal or a plant. Then read the info that goes with it and see if you’ve been April-fooled!



These jewel anemones (uh-NEM-uhneez) look pretty enough to pick for a bouquet. But don’t be fooled—they aren’t flowers. They’re sea animals that live attached to coral reefs and rocks. In the center of each “bloom” is the anemone’s mouth. It’s surrounded by stinging tentacles that the anemone uses to catch small fish and other prey. These anemones come in a rainbow of colors, including pink, purple, yellow, green, orange, and white. Large numbers of them live together, covering reefs and rocks with a carpet of color.


parrot flower by JONGWATTANASILKUL/AVALONYou might notice some-thing suspicious about this pinkish-purple “parrot”: It has a stem! It’s a blossom of the parrot flower, and it looks amazingly like a parrot in flight. Parrot flowers are rare rainforest plants that bloom for only two months of the year. And when they do, it looks as if a whole flock of parrots is taking flight!


sea fan

This sea fan looks like a tree with a thick trunk and lots of branches. But if you guessed it’s a plant, you’d be wrong. And if you guessed it’s an animal, you’d be only part right. It’s actually made up of lots of animals that live together in a group, or colony. Sea fans are a kind of coral. They have a hard skeleton (the “tree trunk”) that is covered by tiny coral ani-mals called polyps (PAH-lups).


thorn bugs

Nothing here but a thorny branch, right? Actually, these aren’t thorns at all. They’re thorn bugs—see their legs? These bugs poke their straw-like mouthparts into plant stems and then suck the sap from them.


tube sponge

This tube sponge looks like some kind of alien plant. But it’s all animal—even though it doesn’t have a heart, lungs, or a brain. Sponges get along fine with-out all those—and also without eyes, mouths, or noses.

The sponge’s body is covered with tiny holes called pores. The sponge uses the pores to breathe and even to eat. It pumps water in through them, taking in food bits and oxygen. Then it pumps the water, and any wastes, back out again.


leaf tailed gecko

There’s no doubt that the baby leaf-tailed gecko on this leafy branch is an animal. But guess what! That “leaf” to the far left of the baby isn’t a leaf at all—it’s the tail of the baby’s mom! If you look closely, you can see her curved, leaf-colored body. This disguise helps these geckos blend in when they hunt for insects at night. And during the day, the disguise can keep them hidden from predators. Unbe-leaf-able!


Christmas Tree Worms

You won’t see colorful “trees” like these growing in any forest. That’s because they aren’t really trees. They’re plumes growing from the head of an ocean animal called a Christmas tree worm. The rest of the worm’s body is hidden inside a tube in the coral. The worm uses the plumes to breathe and to catch bits of floating food. When startled, the worm pulls the plumes down inside its tube. Then it closes its trap door (that round thing) tightly shut.



blue bell tunicates

This big, blooming “flower” isn’t what it seems. It’s actually a cluster of ocean animals called blue bell tunicates (TOO-nuhkits). Tunicates have bag-like bodies, and they spend their whole lives attached to coral or other hard surfaces. Tunicates are also called “sea squirts” because, when they are startled or bothered, they sometimes squirt water!


monkey orchid

Do you feel as if you are being watched? That may be because this monkey orchid seems to be staring right at you. But though it looks like a monkey face, it is the blossom of a plant. Monkey orchids can take several years to bloom for the first time. And when they do, the flowers smell like mushrooms!


slime mold

So, what do you think you’re seeing here? Is it a plant? Is it an animal? April Fool! It’s neither. This thing is called a slime mold. Slime molds are tiny and live in moist places such as soil or rotting logs. They come in many colors and forms, from gross-looking blobs to these glittery globes on stalks. The globes contain spores, tiny dust-like bits. Once released, they will eventually grow into new slime molds.

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