National Geographic - USA (2021-12)

(Antfer) #1

Parts of this photo
essay are drawn from
Sartore’s new book,
Photo Ark Wonders, on
sale at



The highly venomous Malayan krait

is unassuming in colorless bands. A

South American swan’s snow-white

body is topped with a coal-black head.

The clown knifefish seems to wear

black-and-white portholes down its

silver sides. While some birds proclaim

themselves in color, the Timneh parrot

and the Carnaby’s black cockatoo stick

to cool gray.

Other patterns borrow from the

background, strategies for blending

in and staying unseen. The chain

catshark’s murky mottling mirrors

shifting patterns of dark and light on

the ocean floor. Splitfins shimmer like

sunlight on water.

Wood turtles’ shells sport elegant

mosaics, picking up earth tones of the

leaf litter where they scuttle. A grass

mouse striped like the stubble it calls

home, a katydid as brightly veined as

the leaves that fall around it, a whip

snake’s scales in hues of the rainforest

it winds through—all exhibit patterns

from the environments they inhabit.

The animal kingdom offers patterns

in abundance. Some we interpret to

have a purpose, but others seem like

arbitrary shapes and colors combined

with abandon—nature’s artistry. j

ABOVE: The okapi is
striped like a zebra,
but its closest rel-
ative is the giraffe.
This reclusive native
of dense, humid

rainforests in the
Democratic Republic
of the Congo uses its
18-inch tongue to eat
more than a hundred
species of plants.
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