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Image of the Day: Shark Skin
Image of the Day: Shark Skin

Image of the Day: Shark Skin

Fish scales follow a model famed computer scientist Alan Turing developed to describe patterns observed in other animals’ feathers, spines, and scales.

Ashley Yeager
Ashley Yeager

Ashley started at The Scientist in 2018. Before joining the staff, she worked as a freelance editor and writer, a writer at the Simons Foundation, and a web producer at...

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(ABOVE: Dorsal rows in skin of a small-spotted catshark hatchling (Scyliorhinus canicula)
RORY COOPER

Patterns in young catshark skin are similar to those in chick feathers, according to a study published yesterday (November 7). The finding suggests Alan Turing’s reaction-diffusion model, which explains the autonomous development of spatial patterns, applies not only to spines, scales, and teeth in four-legged animals and to feathers in birds, as scientists thought, but also to shark and skate skin. Such patterns in the fish’s skin may have allowed it to develop protective armor or reduce drag in the water.

SEM image of scales on a catshark hatchling's flank
RORY COOPER

R.L. Cooper et al. “An ancient Turing-like patterning mechanism regulates skin denticle development in sharks,” Science Advances, 4:eaau5484, 2018.

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