Patterns in Nature: Mysterious Earth
Salt Piles on Shoreline, Senegal
Salt piles line the shoreline of Lake Retba, Senegal. The high salinity content of the lake provides a livelihood for salt collectors.
Biplane Over Monomoy Shoals, Massachusetts
A biplane flies above Monomoy Island, Massachusetts.
Sand Dunes, Rub al Khali
The borders of four nations—Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates—blur beneath the shifting sands of the Rub al Khali, or Empty Quarter, desert.
Drying Fronds, Kenya
Fronds dry in neat lines around a tree in Kenya.
Cave Dwellings, Turkey
Cavelike dwellings built into soft rock dot the Cappadocia region of Turkey.
Fairy Circles, Namib Desert
Fairy circles, or grassless patches, spot the Namib Desert in Namibia, seen here from an airplane.
Bacteria, New Zealand
Photosynthesizing bacteria in a New Zealand thermal pool absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.
Beads of dew cling to the florets that spiral inside a sunflower head.
Lichens grow on a granite gravestone in Lake Champlain, New York.
The characteristic spikes of a banksia flower are common across Australia. This one was photographed on a farm in Mount Barker.
Water Reflection, Utah
Reflecting off water, light paints peacock-feather patterns onto a rock wall in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah.
Giant Clam Mantle
Iridescent spots surround the mantle of a giant clam in Palau, Micronesia. The mantle is a fleshy outer layer that secretes the clam’s shell.
Cactus, Manzanillo, Mexico
Bursts of yellow punctuate a cactus in Manzanillo, Mexico.
Exhibiting its main defense mechanism, a millipede curls into a tight spiral. In this fashion it protects its legs—on average between 100 and 300, not the thousand its name suggests—inside its body.
The scales of an Atlantic salmon, such as these on a fish in Quebec, Canada, can help biologists determine the fish’s age.
Seen here 400 times their true size, diatoms are a type of algae found in oceans, fresh water, and soil.
Basket Sea Star, Cuba
The complexly branched arms of the basket sea star, or starfish, catch plankton for the echinoderm.
Sunlight radiates through the Xpacay cenote in the Mexican Yucatán. Cenotes are freshwater sinkholes usually found on the Yucatán peninsula.
Snapping Turtle Shell
The bony plates of a snapping turtle’s carapace protect it from predators. Snappers are freshwater turtles found in much of North America.
Mammatus clouds roil in the Nebraska sky, identifiable by their sagging, pouch-like shape. The name comes from the Latin word for “breast.”