A Mathematical Secret of Lizard Camouflage

The shape-shifting clouds of starling birds, the organization of neural networks or the structure of an anthill: nature is full of complex systems whose behaviors can be modeled using mathematical tools. The same is true for the labyrinthine patterns formed by the green or black scales of the ocellated lizard (photo).  A multidisciplinary team from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) explains, thanks to a very simple mathematical equation, the complexity of the system that generates these patterns. This discovery contributes to a better understanding of the evolution of skin color patterns: the process allows for many different locations of green and black scales but always leads to an optimal pattern for the animal survival. These results were published online on January 27, 2022 in the journal Physical Review Letters. The article is titledLizard Skin Patterns and the Ising Model.”
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