Mathematician Alan Turing deciphered the German Enigma code during World War II and laid the foundations of computer science as a new discipline. But toward the end of his short life, he made a lesser-known yet groundbreaking contribution. Interested in the development of patterns and shapes in biological systems, in 1952 Turing published a paper entitled “The chemical basis of morphogenesis.”1 In the theoretical study, he showed that a homogeneous system of chemical substances that react with each other and diffuse in space can self-organize into spatially periodic distributions. His work received limited attention until four decades later, when the behavior was experimentally observed.2,3 The confirmation of Turing’s prediction led to a surge in the number of studies of so-called Turing patterns, first in chemical and biological contexts and more recently in ecological contexts.4 

In a time when aerial photographs, let alone satellite images, of...

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