Earth’s creatures sport patterns with many purposes

Stripes. Spots. Symmetries. Swirls. In the natural world, patterns help animals attract or repel, blend in or stand out.

This scale-covered pinwheel is a veiled chameleon’s tail, which the animal curls into a tight spiral when it’s startled.
Photographed in LINCOLN, NEBRASKA

Some like it bold; some like it subtle. Some show off and others blend in. Some of our favorite animals are known for their patterns. What’s a tiger, or a zebra, without its stripes?

For patterns pitting color against color, birds seem to win the prize. The paradise tanager, the red-crested turaco, the green twinspot, and of course the macaw: All wear colors with abandon, reds and greens and blues side by side in vibrant designs.

Angelfish glow as if neon under water. Chameleons can change their hues. Poison frogs dare to clothe themselves in the most unnatural of blues and yellows—effective in discouraging predators, experts presume. 

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