When Reptile Scales Resemble Beautiful Mosaics



Image: Abstract design from snakeskin close-up image from Bigstock

The idea of ‘scales’ often brings to mind images of slimy, unpleasant creatures that creep, crawl and slither. Certainly, we humans would hate to think of our own skin as scaly. But have you ever considered the idea that the hard, horned skin of reptiles might actually be aesthetically appealing? If you have, you’re in good company: experts believe that the vivid patterning found on snakes inspired early art, not to mention the tessellated mosaics that feature in Islamic art. And then there are those for whom reptile scales have an effect akin to looking at a ‘magic eye painting,’ conjuring up pictures of landscapes, and – through the symmetry of their patterns and bold colors – more abstract forms of art, too. Here we bring together a stunning array of images that show the often-overlooked beauty that can be found in the scales of snakes, lizards and crocodiles.


Image: Morven Houston

Hills, depressions, impact craters and volcanoes are features we might associate with a lunar landscape. The surface of the moon is the ultimate foreign terrain, and yet look how it is almost replicated in these alligator scales. Known as ‘scutes’, alligator scales go deeper than the outer epidermis of snakes and lizards, forming a kind of armor for the animal. Unlike the scales of snake skin, alligator scales do not overlap. Beautiful to look at – a gator’s skin might not feel that smooth to the touch (not that we’d dare to test the theory…).

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