Biological Patterning Guide

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Master Guide

Instructions: Think of a pattern. Follow the Master Guide. Select a patterning page to be inspired!


Patterning Pages

Each patterning page is a meant to quickly get you up-to-speed on a patterning mode i.e. what resolution its capable of, how these patterns are created. It will also direct you to resources if you would like to learn more.



Biology is able to engineer better than we humans can. To give examples, here is a diatom shell made of silica (what chips in your phone are made of) that is patterned with 50 nm resolution (Figure 1A)(1). Here is a fungus that has optimized efficiency better than the Tokyo railroad system (Figure 1B)(2). Here is a jasmine vine in my backyard that patterns adaptively to the structure it is near (Figure 1C). Given the power biology has to pattern, harnessing it will open an entirely new avenue for creativity and innovation that can more directly enhance the well being of the planet.


Biology has many mechanisms in which it patterns. It may grow structures fractally like mollusk shells; or it may diffuse and react signals through a tissue. We need to centralize and organize the many modes of biological patterning to best learn and inspire. This guidebook is an open source effort to centralize and organize biological modes of patterning.


Please share a patterning page on your favorite patterning mechanism in biology. I ask that you use the same format as the other patterning pages. If you have comments, questions, or suggestions, please share them here or email me at atchoksi 'AT'


  1. M. Hildebrand, E. York, J. I. Kelz, Nanoscale control of silica morphology and three-dimensional structure during diatom cell wall formation. Journal of Materials … (2006), doi:10.1557/jmr.2006.0333.
  2. A. Tero et al., Rules for Biologically Inspired Adaptive Network Design. Science. 327, 439–442 (2010).