A Study in Natural Symmetry

One important group in the study of symmetrical origins is the phylum Cnidaria which includes sea anemones, corals, hydras, and jellyfishes. Cnidaria have historically been classified as radially symmetric, but we now know that their ancestors were bilaterally symmetrical animals. Today, sea stars and sea urchins of the phylum Echinodermata exhibit a form of radial symmetry called ‘pentaradial’ meaning five distinct components. However, ancient echinoderms (~541 to 251 million years ago) exhibited many forms of symmetry. As each group evolved, its body symmetry changed with it. The portfolios in this gallery dive deep into the intricacies such symmetries as they manifest themselves visually.
Similarly, transitions from radial symmetry to bilateral symmetry in flowering plants appear to coincide with the evolution of specialized plant–pollinator relationships. For example, many pollinators can visit the radially symmetric aster, while the bilaterally symmetric orchid may only be visited by a single type of pollinator. These important interactions are driven by the ability of the pollinator to recognize variations in symmetry. Similarly, the artists here have honed their eye for naturally occurring symmetries, finding beauty in nature's ultimate utility.