This intriguing surface texture is the result of rock interacting with water. The rock was then eroded and later exposed to the surface. The pinkish, almost dragon-like scaled texture represents Martian bedrock that has specifically altered into a clay-bearing rock.
The nature of the water responsible for the alteration, and how it interacted with the rock to form the clay remains poorly understood. Not surprisingly, the study of such altered rocks on Mars is an area of active investigation by the Mars science community. Understanding such interactions, and how they happened, help scientists to understand the past climate on Mars, and if the red planet ever harbored life.
Recent studies indicate that the early Martian climate may not have been as warm, wet, and Earth-like, as previously suggested. This is not a problem for finding life on Mars as one might think. Ongoing studies of dry and cold environments on Earth shows that life finds ways to adapt to such extremes. Such work provides hope for finding evidence for life on other planets, like Mars, someday.
Written by: Livio L. Tornabene, Jon Kissi, Zach Morse and Gavin Tolometti (audio: Tre Gibbs) (11 July 2017)
More info and image formats at http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/ESP_050275_1500
Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona