Aug 17

From spots to strips and mammals to insects, the natural world is full of a diversity of creatures with some amazing patterns! Some we are all familiar with and others that might surprise you, here are ARKive’s top ten animal patterns!

Grevy’s zebra

Starting with one I’m sure you would all have guessed, Grevy’s zebra has the distinctive black and white stripes we all know and love. This type of zebra is listed as Endangered, partly due to its splendid coat being used for fashion. Because of this, and its other threats, Grevy’s zebra is now protected by law in both Ethiopia and Kenya, so hopefully this distinctive pattern won’t be lost.

Grevy's zebras







Common cuttlefish

The common cuttlefish is distinctive in that it can change colour. This can either be used for camouflage to blend into its surroundings, or when competing for females, males use spectacular displays in which bands of colour pass over the body. Who could resist this flashy pattern?

Common cuttlefishCommon cuttlefish image







Panther chameleon

Chameleons are also well known for changing colour, but the panther chameleon probably has some of the most spectacular colour variations of them all. There are even different colouration and patterns within this species, depending on where it is found. The males colours become more pronounced when defending his territory, or courting a female. The female is usually a more dull grey or brown, but changes colour when breeding to become orange or pink.

Panther chameleon image

Panther chameleon image








The bongo is a species some of you may not have heard of, but it certainly has an amazing pattern and is, in fact, the largest and most colourful of all African antelope. The male and female look very similar, though the male is larger, and its coat becomes darker as it ages. So along with its interesting name, this is a truly distinctive species.

Bongo photo

Bongo portrait










Looking at the shag, you may not think of it as an animal with a pattern, but a closer look at its feathers shows a very interesting design. It goes to show; sometimes having a closer look can show you an amazing pattern that isn’t immediately obvious. This bird is usually black, but it develops a nice green gloss to its feathers during the breeding season.

Shag feathers

Shag feathers













Giant clam

The giant clam is an incredible species, being the largest and heaviest living species of bivalve mollusc, weighing up to 300 kg. The mantle of this species has a striking pattern with its many small, blue-green circles giving it an iridescent colour, earning its place in our top ten.

Giant clam closeup

Giant clam








Another obvious choice, the giraffe is well known for its pattern. Interestingly, the different subspecies have distinctive patterns, such as the obvious differences between these images of Thornicroft’s giraffe and the Reticulated giraffe. The name for the giraffe ‘camelopardalis’ means ‘camel marked with leopard’ due to its well known, blotched pattern.









Orinoco crocodile

Crocodiles are known to have beautiful skin patterns, often having their skins used in fashion. The Orinoco crocodile is no exception, with its striking skin pattern. There are three different colour variations of this crocodile, and amazingly their skin has been seen to change colour over long periods of time. Unfortunately this species is Critically Endangered and, even though it is legally protected, illegal poaching continues to be a threat to this species, which has never recovered from population declines caused by hunting for its skin in the past. Captive breeding programmes are underway for this unique species, offering some hope for its survival.

Orinoco crocodile skin

Orinoco crocodile







Pearl-bordered fritillary

We have many beautiful butterflies on ARKive, so choosing one for our top ten was very difficult. In the end I chose the pearl-bordered fritillary, one of Britain’s butterfly species. With its vivid orange wings and black spots, this species definitely has stunning patterned wings.

Pearl-bordered fritillary

Pearl-bordered fritillary










A blog about animal patterns wouldn’t be complete without the majestic tiger. As the only striped cat, the distribution of stripes is unique to each individual, with no two tigers having the same pattern. The stunning stripes vary in their width; spacing, length, and whether they are double or single stripes. This pattern is enough to make anyone jealous!

Tiger portrait

Tiger photo








We have many species on ARKive with unique and wonderful patterns, are there any more that you can see?

Rebecca Taylor, ARKive Media Researcher

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