A new study provided an update to Alan Turing’s Theory of Morphogenesis, which suggests that a combination of two processes – chemical reactions and wave-like structures – decide the patterning of animals’ fur markings.
The paper published in the journal Cell Systems suggests that the interactions between chemical reaction-diffusion systems and mechanical wave structures are essential to embryos and determine the interesting patterns on the epidermis of many animals, including tigers and zebras.
Led by senior author Ifat Amir, a professor of physics at the Weizmann Institute of Science, the research was inspired by Alan Turing’s paper, which proposed that chemical substances drive patterns to come into the existence. The new paper supports the discovery more than 60 years ago, and it provides more clarity on its physical incarnations in the form of mechanical waves.
The result of the research could dramatically alter the understanding of evolution as it reveals how species-specific furry stripes and spots can be formed in the early developmental stages of organisms.
Another surprising result of the study is that the two processes – chemical reactions and mechanical waves – form a feedback loop that strengthens each other. This means that patterns emerge gradually as chemical reactions and waves reinforce each other, and a clear pattern only emerges if there are strong enough qualities in the chemical reactions.
The findings of the paper are inspiring in the sense that it sheds more light on using chemical reactions-diffusion and wave mechanics to drive the generation of patterns. These findings could be immensely helpful for scientists who are looking to replicate these patterns in fields such as robotics.
This breakthrough paper not only brings us closer to understanding animal development, it may also help us to better harness the power of nature in constructing robotic models in the future.