Orbital View: A Cheetah Print in the Pantanal

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The world's largest wetlands, #Brazil's #Pantanal, looks like modern art from space.

A photo posted by Planet Labs (@planetlabs) on

Planet Labs sees modern art in this view above the Pantanal, but to me it evokes something a bit more organic:

Jumana El-Heloueh / Reuters

The Cheetah Conversation Fund explains the functional purpose of the pattern:

Adult cheetahs are easy distinguished from other cast by their solid black spots. The color and spots are a form of camouflage which helps cheetahs hunt prey and hide form other predators. Until about three months of age cheetah cubs have a thick silvery-grey mantle down their back. The mantle helps camouflage the cubs by imitating the look of an aggressive animal called a honey badger. This mimicry may help deter predators such as lions, hyaenas, and eagles from attempting to kill them.

And now, for purely scientific purposes, here is a photo of a baby cheetah drinking milk:

Ina Fassbender / Reuters

(See all Orbital Views here)