New story of animals' spots, stripes

A mathematical model of cell signaling helps explain how animal patterns emerge

Carrie Arnold
Nov 28, 2010
For Rudyard Kipling, the answer of how zebras got their stripes was simple: to hide from predators in the dark and dappled forest of the High Veldt in Africa. But now there's a more scientific explanation, based on a mathematical model of cell-cell signaling, that provides more clues to how stripes and spots and other patterns emerge during animal development.
A Plains Zebra, Equus quagga, in
the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania
Image: linkurl:Wikimedia commons,;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Plains_Zebra_Equus_quagga.jpg
Muhammad Mahdi Karim

In a study published this week in Royal Society Interface, researchers from the UK showed how cells can communicate with each other via small protrusions. As the protrusions continually form and disappear, neighboring cells receive chemical signals that tell them what color to be. Over time, patterns of spots and stripes appear. "Our work has shown a novel way in which cells may be able to communicate with one another in order to...
The Scientist.Drosophila.M. Cohen, B. Baum, M. Miodownik. "The importance of structured noise in the generation of self-organizing tissue patterns through contact-mediated cell-cell signalling." Royal Society Interface. linkurl:http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2010.0488;http://rsif.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2010/11/11/rsif.2010.0488.full



Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?