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Red, White, and Blue Animals for the Fourth of July

Some creatures are born ready to celebrate.

Independence Day in the United States is coming up, and the red, white, and blue will be flying—and fluttering, and swimming, and skittering.

Cherax pulcher Crayfish

This freshwater firework was first formally described in a 2015 paper by German independent researcher Christian Lukhaup, who noticed the species being sold in the ornamental fish trade.

“It took me several years to find where it comes from,” Lukhaup says, but he knew it was of the Cherax genus, endemic to several areas including West Papua, Indonesia. With the help of locals, Lukhaup finally tracked it down to the creeks of West Papua's Teminabuan region.

Cherax pulcher differs from other subspecies of crayfish in that its chalae, or claws, are smaller, its body slimmer, and its coloring far more fantastic. This crayfish is vulnerable to the pet trade, Lukhaup says, particularly as crayfish collecting becomes more popular in Europe and Asia.

Cuban Trogon

Cuba’s national bird, the Cuban trogon—also called the tocororo or tocoloro—matches the colors of the American (and Cuban) flag, and then some.

“The blue feathers present iridescent patterns,” and sometimes appear dark green, “depending on the angle of the sunlight,” says ornithologist Eduardo E. Inigo Elias, senior research associate at Cornell University, who has studied the biology and conservation of birds in Cuba for 14 years.

In this species both males and females sport these bright colors, but there’s a marked difference in their songs, with longer calls for males, says Inigo Elias.

Common Agama or Rainbow Lizard

Native to sub-Saharan Africa, “there is variation in color across the range of this widespread species,” says Robert Espinoza, a biologist at California State University, Northridge.

“The color is related to social hierarchies,” he says, and a 2002 study on the suburban population in coastal Kenya notes that the males with the best fighting abilities have the brightest “nuptial colors,” a signal the animal is ready to mate.

“The biggest and brightest typically defend a harem of females from competing males,” adds Adam Leaché, a biologist at the University of Washington.

Mandrill

In this equatorial east African primate species only the males have dramatic white whiskers and chins, and bright blue and red on their noses and hindquarters.

And the brighter the colors, the more dominant the male. (Related: Some Monkeys Have Blue Testicles - Here’s Why)

In 2005 Joanna Setchell of the University of Cambridge, UK, did a study showing that brighter males ranked higher than paler ones, which leads to less conflict since high ranking males can be identified and avoided.

A 2004 study by Setchell showed that brighter males also enjoyed more female attention and that females preferred them—even if they weren’t the highest ranking.

Polka-Dot Wasp Moth

So is it a wasp or a moth?

It looks wasp-like, but this is a moth, native to the Caribbean and also inhabiting Florida and Georgia. The only plant this moth’s caterpillar offspring will chow down on is oleander, hence its other common name, the oleander moth.

As a caterpillar it is orange, covered in what look like patches of false eyelash. But after it has matured in its cocoon of silk, it emerges red, white, and blue, flying in the breeze.

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