Mimicry is one of the ways bugs avoid being eaten by predators. It’s also one of the few traits that allow them to catch different types of prey.
Leaf mimicry is not uncommon in the world of bugs, since most live on trees, plants, or in other areas with vegetation which is food for their prey.
Bugs that look like leaves are common all around the world. They use mimicry techniques to avoid predation and can be found even in the depths of The Amazon Rainforest.
Bugs that jump, crawl, or fly may look like leaves. Various species of these bugs exist around the world, and even in gardens.
Some of the newest types of bugs that look like leaves are spiders (found in China) while some of the oldest are geckos (endemic to Madagascar).
There are also different other types of animals that look like leaves. Species such as fish may also sometimes look like leaves.
Slugs are some of the least likely species to look like leaves, but this isn’t unheard of in the world of animals.
Table of Contents
Bugs that Look Like Leaves
The following species of bugs use leaf-mimicry throughout their lives to look like a living, dying, or already dead leaf.
These are species found all over the world, on continents such as The Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.
Katydids are some of the most widespread types of bugs in the world. Some of them even resemble leaves.
Over 8.000 species of katydids live around the world. These can be green, brown, wide, or narrow.
Among them, there are different types of katydids which may even be confused with a leaf.
False Leaf Katydids (Pseudophyllus titan) are the bugs of the species which resemble leaves the most.
A large species that grows to a size of several inches, this type of katydid is native to Asia.
It has an all-green appearance with visible veins which resemble the veins of leaves.
Its body is narrow and pointy with a main yellow-green vein running down the middle, just as the dominating vein of leaves.
The species also has green legs which help it further improve its camouflage.
For katydids, camouflage is important as they are exposed to different predators such as birds.
Even the eggs they lay are modified for camouflage.
Many katydids lay flat eggs, in rows, directly on plant stems. This makes the eggs overlooked and not even appear as eggs but rather as bark or part of their host plans.
As with most types of katydids, leaves, and flowers are part of its typical diet.
Similarly to many species of bugs, most types of katydids that look like leaves live in The Amazon Rainforest. It’s estimated thousands of species live here.
2. Leaf Insects
A species unknown to regions outside of Asia and Australia, Leaf Insects (family Phylliidae) are adapted to looking like an actual leaf.
There are various types of adaptations this species is known for when it comes to its leaf mimicry.
Color matching is among them. They can be green, as a living leaf, or brown, as a dead or dying leaf.
Shape mimicry is also a tactic used by this bug. It takes on the shape of an actual leaf!
Narrow next to the head and wider at the tip of its abdomen, this leaf-shaped species is difficult to spot among tree leaves.
As leaf-mimicking katydids, Leaf Insects also show numerous veins along the body to signal the veins of a leaf.
There’s also an additional main vein that runs through the mid-dorsum, making the species stand out.
While most bugs of the species are green and brown, there’s even a yellow morph, resembling a dying leaf.
All of these morphs are also paper-thin, resembling leaves in thickness apart from shape and color.
3. Dead Leaf Spider
Some species of spiders also use mimicry as a self-defense or camouflaging tactic.
Dead Leaf Spiders (Poltys idae) are among the multiple worldwide species that take on the appearance of a leaf.
Found in remote Chinese forests, this is a species that can be green or brown, just like a leaf throughout its different seasonal changes.
The spider takes on the appearance of a rolled leaf. This is why it has a rather circular appearance.
It builds a regular-sized spider web which is used as its home as well.
Dead Leaf Spiders sit in the middle of this web, often overlooked by small insects due to their leaf-like appearance.
The extent to which these spiders go to look like leaves is considerable.
All leaves are connected through a thin stem. This is also a physical trait of the spider which appears to have a hanging tail-like stem to further make it look like a leaf.
Unlike other species of spiders, Dead Leaf Spiders have only been recently discovered.
Scientists expect to find many other species of spiders that look like leaves, particularly in unexplored regions of China.
4. Goatweed Leafwing
Butterflies of the world often live with vulnerabilities in front of potential predators.
These vulnerabilities often include slow flying speeds and a large size which increases their visibility.
But not all large butterflies are easy to spot. Some may even prove difficult to spot.
Goatweed Leafwings (Anaea andria) are among those butterflies that are difficult to spot.
While its ventral wings have red-brown nuances with gray-brown margins, its ventral wings are brown.
They also show leaf-like veins.
Its ventral wings appear exactly like dead leaves and this is why this butterfly often rests with its wings closed.
On certain surfaces such as tree bark or stems, this butterfly looks like a dead leaf as it lays there motionless for hours.
It’s only when it flies that it shows its colorful dorsal wings that tend to attract plenty of attention from birds and other predators.
5. American Snout
North America is home to several species of butterflies that look like dead leaves.
American Snout butterflies (Libytheana carinenta) are among the most numerous species of Texas and they also look like leaves.
These types of butterflies have bright brown, dark brown, gray, and black mottled ventral wings’ coloring to look like dead leaves.
The elongated mouthparts of the species also look like a petiole or a leaf.
In a resting motionless position, the butterfly looks like a dead leaf.
Some of its habits have also been adapted to better hide in plain sight. This includes the capacity to hand upside down.
The species can be seen across Texas, but its numbers vary with the seasons and with the weather.
Most American Snouts here are spotted soon after it rains, as they like humidity.
Being one of the states where drought is frequent, this means The American Snout may not be visible throughout the year, although this is possible at times.
6. Clouded Sulphur
Clouded Sulphur Butterflies (Colias philodice) have a bright appearance that often makes them subject to predation.
These types of butterflies mainly have a lemon-yellow or green-yellow color, with some Clouded Sulphurs showing a pale, almost white, nuance.
All of these bright variants can be difficult to spot among bright leaves as they show gray sections and brown spots to make them resemble leaves that are dying.
Both the ventral and the dorsal side of the wings make these butterflies appear similar to leaves.
The upper part of the wings has more pronounced gray or black margins while the ventral wings are always brighter, but still show additional gray sections.
Rare types of Clouded Sulphur butterflies also show a vivid orange color which also comes with small eyespots to make it resemble leaves.
The species is among the most common types of butterflies, regardless of its appearance, in North America.
Its habitat spreads from Florida to Alaska.
Smaller populations of the butterfly also live in Northern Mexico.
7. Tropical Leafwing
Brown, orange-brown, and gray nuances are some of the ground colors Tropical Leafwing butterflies (Anaea aidea) are seen in.
These are colors that are specific either to its ventral or its dorsal wings, depending on its region.
Its dorsal wings are often brown or red-brown. Darker on the edges, these wings even look like a leaf that’s almost completely dead.
Even the ventral side of the wings may sometimes confuse the butterfly with leaves.
Mostly represented by different darker brown or gray nuances, the ventral wings of the species are also similar to leaves.
While not necessarily always the case, the host plants of the species may be an explanation for these nuances.
Tropical Leawfings are often seen on croton plants, which are brown, yellow, red-brown, and green.
Oftentimes, cotton plants show leaves with all of these colors at once.
Both these host plants and the butterfly themselves are a common sight in Southern US and Central America.
8. Orange Oakleaf
Orange Oakleaf butterflies (Kallima inachus) are named after the orange sections on the dorsal wings in the dry season as well as for their resemblance to dead oak leaves.
They resemble dead leaves is highly realistic in this species.
Unlike other butterflies, Orange Oakleaf butterflies show both the color and the shape of oak leaves when their wings are closed.
This position shows dark brown ventral wings which are pointy or tapered at both ends, forming a dark brown leaf-like appearance.
This is an appearance specific to the ventral wings both in the dry and the wet season, which isn’t the case with the dorsal side of the wings.
Males and females have a similar appearance, with small differences in terms of sizing.
A species that lives in oak woodlands, this is a type of butterfly that even has broken wing margins to appear more similar to broken dry leaves.
A species of Southern and East Asia, this is a butterfly species inhabiting numerous forests from Nepal to India.
It uses various mimicry techniques to avoid predators from a young age.
For example, its spiny caterpillars rely on a row of black spines to keep predators away. They also rely on black and orange color combinations to appear poisonous to predators.
1 to 3 generations of Orange Oakleafs are common throughout the year, depending on their range.
A short season is specific to the populations in The Himalayas, where they fly up from April.
The species also have 2-3 broods per year in warmer climates such as in China.
9. Imperial Moth
Imperial Moths (Eacles imperialis) are large colorful moths that have also evolved over time to look like dead tree leaves.
Poplar is often the main host for the caterpillars of the species. These caterpillars attach themselves to poplar leaves with a silk thread.
The leaves of poplar also impact the appearance of emerged adults.
Rotting poplar leaves may have a brown and yellow color.
Bright or dark brown nuances are matched by deep yellow nuances across the body, forewings, and hindwings of this moth species to look like a dead poplar leaf.
The resemblance is both in color nuances and in size, with the moth sharing a similar size to an actual leaf.
Brown nuances are mostly seen on its forewings, with its hindwings being mostly yellow.
Its body shows comparable brown and yellow sections with darker brown nuances more specific to the area of the head.
Some nuance exceptions apply. For example, newly emerged adults tend to have brighter yellow coloring.
10. Large Maple Spanworm Moth
A species that depends on maple, The Large Maple Spanworm Moth (Prochoerodes lineola) is known for its distinct camouflaging appearance.
Moths of the species are known to resemble dying maple leaves, in different colors.
A long wingspan species, these moths are also large, just like the leaves themselves.
Different brown and yellow morphs are characteristic of this species.
All-brown morphs are highly common. Both the forewings and the hindwings of the moths are dark brown.
Some of these moths may or may not show a central vein-like line to further resemble a rotting maple tree leaf.
On occasion, Large Maple Spanworm Moths can also be yellow.
The moths that are already yellow cannot turn brown, as the leaves of the deciduous tree die themselves.
The yellow variant of the moth may or may not be striped, as well. There are up to 2 long brown stripes along the yellow forewings and hindwings of this species.
The moth is rarely seen. Despite its common appearance and camouflaging wings, this is a moth that only flies at night.
11. Variable Oakleaf Caterpillar Moth
Oaktree species are also the host of this species. Its caterpillars (Lochmaeus manteo) feed on the softest and youngest oak tree leaves.
The Variable Oakleaf Caterpillar Moth is also a species that darkens to a gray-brown color, looking like a rotted oak tree leaf.
A short wingspan species, this is a moth that arises soon in the spring.
It appears directly with gray-brown forewings and hindwings.
Small black spots are further distinguishable on its wings.
There are also small nuance differences between its forewings and hindwings. For example, its hindwings aren’t as patterned and present a brighter gray nuance.
Moths of the species are seen from spring to late fall in oak and mixed woodlands of Eastern North America.
12. American Lappet Moth
There are various species of moths that resemble leaves that are dependent on one host plant or leaves.
American Lappet Moths (Phyllodesma americana) aren’t these types of moths. They aren’t dependent on a single species as they can be hosted by willow, poplar, alder, and other types of trees.
They are, however, very good at looking like a dead leaf, in general.
Their reduced size doesn’t stop these moths from taking on brown nuances which makes them look like dead leaves.
The forewings of the species are even zig-zagged or broken at the margins to look even more realistic.
Bright brown, dark brown, and gray nuances are specific to this small species of moths.
In some rare cases, a gray morph only shows reduced brown patches on the wings.
American Lappet Moths are very good at hiding in plain sight from a young age.
Even the long, hairy, and twig-like caterpillars of the species have bright gray colors that make them easily overlooked.
13. Common Ghost Mantis
One of the most unlike bug-looking bugs that resemble leaves is The Common Ghost Mantis (Phyllocrania paradoxa).
This is a small species that has the appearance of dead or dying leaves and is even shaped like a leaf.
With thin almost leaf-like textures, this is a species that is one of the few leaf-like bugs that feed on crickets, bugs, and fruit flies.
From Congo to Ethiopia, this is a bug that’s found in different colors across a vast habitat.
Seen in bright and dark brown nuances, this is a species that may also show additional black sections.
These are all sections that are seen in different areas, according to their environment.
Bugs of the species may show red-brown and black color patterns as well.
Unlike other types of bugs that look like dying leaves, Common Ghost Mantises look like dried-up leaves that may are partly decomposed.
Mimicry tactics are also specific to its young which try to mimic ants.
14. Leaf Mantis
Five species of Leaf Mantises (Genus Choeradodis) are found throughout South American forests.
They can come in different leaf-mimicking colors, including brown, tan, and green.
Common Leaf Mantises have a bright green color and appear similar to 2 joined green leaves.
Often found on trees, these bugs look unlike bugs from above and may be overlooked by some of their common predators.
Some Leaf Mantises also show vivid yellow colors as veins on the leaf-mimicking green bodies.
Seen from above, this species looks like a combination of leaves as its wings cover its body, legs, and head completely.
15. Giant Dead Leaf Mantis
Giant Dead Leaf Mantises (Deroplatys desiccata) may look similar to Leaf Mantises, but they only mimic dead leaves and not live leaves.
This South American species lives on the forest floor, where it takes the appearance of dead or decomposing leaves.
Various brown nuances are specific to the species. These are tan or dark brown nuances with visible darker brown stripes that look like leaves.
Bright brown or dark brown nuances are also specific to its eyes so that the bug has a more unitary look.
Growing to a size of almost 4 inches, it’s also one of the largest types of bugs that resemble various leaves in the world.
The species may be seen in some zoos around the world but it only likes very warm weather when bred in captivity.
An aggressive species by nature, males and females are rarely seen together outside of the breeding period.
Males and females can be in the same tank. A thinner body and a shorter body are specific to males.
16. South American Boxer Mantis
A species found in the Northern forests of South America, The South American Boxer Mantis (Acanthops falcata) takes on the appearance of dead leaves.
Mostly brown, this is a slender type of mantis with a disproportionately-large head in relation to its body.
The rest of its body and its legs are all-brown.
Found in remote tropical forests, The South American Boxer Mantis is also a species that relies on camouflage to trap insects, not only to avoid predators.
This is a species that lives on tree leaves or next to flowers that attract pollinators.
While its body looks like a rolled-up dry leaf, this bug still has strong raptorial legs used to catch bugs and insects.
17. Leaf Grasshoppers
Grasshoppers are some of the most common bugs in the world. Some of them even look like leaves.
Katydid grasshoppers are among the common types of grasshoppers that look like leaves.
The wings of the species that cover the body mimic actual green leaves with green or yellow veins and even a similar pointy appearance.
The rest of their bodies are also green which means these types of grasshoppers rely on mimicry.
A highly common species in dense vegetation or on open grassy fields, Leaf Grasshoppers (Superfamily Trigonopterygoidea) are further known for their large size.
This is a grasshopper that can grow to 4 inches, at least for its European or Asian populations.
Reproduction rates are high to very high, compared to other bugs.
This is mostly due to the asexual reproduction of the species.
All Leaf Grasshoppers are female as they reproduce asexually.
Not all types of grasshoppers are asexual, on the other hand. For example, Meadow Grasshoppers reproduce sexually.
18. Common Gumleaf Grasshopper
Also part of the several thousand species of grasshoppers of the world, The Common Gumleaf Grasshopper (Goniaea australasiae) is a species that resembles leaves.
With brown and red-brown nuances, this is a type of grasshopper that looks similar to a dead leaf.
Its color is even similar to tree bark as there are small black and gray spots along its brown body and wings.
Reaching a size of several inches, this is also a grasshopper with matching brown leaves and matching long brown antennae and legs.
Some other morphs also exist. There’s a copper-brown Common Gumleaf Grasshopper and a yellow-brown counterpart.
The species lives in woodlands where it mixed itself with ground-level leaves to avoid predation.
Its name is inspired by the gum leaves it lives among on the forest floor.
Leafhoppers have very good reasons to look like leaves. They rest under their host’s leaves where they avoid attention.
Not all leafhoppers are leaf-like. Some are colorful.
The Gyponana family of leafhoppers are among the bugs of the species in North America that look like leaves.
This is a small leafhopper that has a bright green nuance. Its red eyes are the only colorful section.
Beet Leafhoppers (Circulifer tenellus) have a similar appearance. Unlike Gyponana types of leafhoppers, Beet Leafhoppers are considerable pests.
They invade beet leaves and cause significant economic damage.
Other Animals That Look Like Leaves
1. Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko
A nocturnal species found on the trees of Madagascar, Satanic Leaf-tailed Geckos (Uroplatus phantasticus) mimic dead leaves.
Most of their mimicry efforts result in a flattened brown and dark brown appearance. White-to-gray morphs also exist.
Unlike other leaf-mimicking species, this type of gecko is also seen in other, rare colors.
These rare colors include orange and even purple.
Some parts (such as the tail) are so thin they are as thin as an actual leaf.
This type of gecko also possesses the capacity to further flatten its body when it wants to become even more invisible.
All of these efforts plus the habit of only hunting at night makes the gecko a species with few natural predators.
It feeds on various types of insects which it spots with its tiny eyes. These geckos don’t have eyelids.
Unlike other rarer types of species that look like leaves, especially bugs, these types of geckos are a common sight in zoos around The United States.
2. Malayan Leaf Frog
A species native to Asia, The Malayan Leaf Frog (Pelobatrachus nasutus) is a type of frog that looks like a leaf and that lives among leaves.
A rainforest species, this frog has the brown color of dead leaves and a pointy appearance which makes it resemble leaves.
Frogs of this species are mostly found in leafy areas right next to rivers.
They can live above ground-level leaves as adults, as they use their camouflaging look to their advantage.
Juveniles of the species live below the leaves.
Adults can also be heard as they have a loud ooonk-ooonk call.
Some of its body parts, such as the pointy eyelids, are all interpretations of a dead leaf part.
Its mouthparts and edges are also sharp, looking similar to the side of a leaf.
Malayan Leaf Frogs are further distinguished by long ridges on the dorsum which resemble leaf veins.
These types of frogs are mostly dark brown, but yellow-brown and even green morphs also exist.
All of these morphs have a leaf or paper-like appearance.
Abundant in the rainforest, the species is rarely seen in zoos or in captivity. These frogs tend to get sick quickly under the stress of living in captivity.
3. Amazon Leaffish
Fish can rely on mimicry for catching prey as well. This is the case of The Amazon Leaffish (Monocirrhus polyacanthus), a species that’s found all around The Amazon Basin.
A small species of fish that only grows to 3.5 inches, this is a type of fish with a thin profile and dead leaf-like coloring with patterns.
A yellow-gray and black-mottled appearance is specific to these Amazonian fish.
Their appearance allows them to be safer in front of larger predators as well as to approach small prey without being detected early.
Unlike most other types of fish, Amazon Leaffish are also known for their swimming position which makes them look like a drifting leaf.
They always swim with their heads upside down. Sharp mouthparts and a slightly elongated upper lip make it look like this fish is an actual drifting leaf.
4. Leaf-veined Slugs
Multiple species of Leaf-veined Slugs (Family Athoracophoridae) are native to New Zealand.
These types of slugs have an atypical appearance, which makes them resemble different types of leaves.
Unlike common slugs with their smooth appearance, Leaf-veined Slugs have a veined appearance.
Visible-leaf-like veins are seen across its entire dorsum. A central longitudinal vein is backed by lateral angled veins, just as on leaves.
The color of these slugs can also be highly different.
From gray to red-brown, Leaf-veined Slugs come in all types of colors.
These types of slugs may even show warts, but most have a smooth appearance.
Some of the rarest species of Leaf-veined Slugs come on green.
For example, The Red Triangle (Triboniophorus graeffei) slug is a species with a green appearance with just a few red veins.
Others, such as those in the Pseudaneitea family show an olive color with a single bright mid-dorsal vein.