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Their common name is a reference to the under surface of their wings, which is various shades of brown. When the wings are held closed, this results in a remarkable similarity to a dead leaf. There are dark dots or patches which look like the effects of fungi and lichen, which are so common on dead leaves.
The camouflage is perfected by the rear wings, which have a little 'tail', which looks like the stalk of a leaf. When at rest in closed position, the 'tail' touches the branch, completing the illusion.
There are two morphs of the common Indian species Kallima inachus. Nothing seems to be known about why these morphs exist. There is also variation in the colour of the under surfaces.