The stripes, rosettes and spots that can be seen on animals in the wild have inspired us for a very long time. Now, scientists affiliated with the University of Bath have created an amazing mathematical model that can explain how the zebrafish, one of the most important species that has this sort of pattern, has got its stripes.
The Science Behind It
In the kingdom of animals, how skin pigment cells are arranged is all started early during development, when the creature is just an embryo, so pattern formation is interesting not just for the regular stripe-afficionado, but it is also an interesting subject for biologists. Surprisingly, there is another category of scientists that are mesmerized by the appearance of these stripes: mathematicians.
Zebrafish are very important when it comes to studying pathology in humans. These little minnows that dwell in freshwater might appear as if they have almost nothing in common with mammals, but they actually present a variety of genetic similarities to humans and have an impressive list of physical traits in common.
Not That Simple
Zebrafish are also essential to understanding the miraculous process that takes place in biology. By looking at their visually impressive appearance, we might improve our own medicine, as the formation of patterns is a biomarker that indicates a lot about the development of organs in general. For example, getting a better understanding of how patterns happen could lead to us knowing more about how diseases that are caused by a disruption of the cell arrangements within the organs themselves happens.
Back in Bath, a new mathematical model was proposed. This model explores a lot of things regarding pigment patterning systems and their similarity across a number of different species. In zebrafish, the phenomenon is an emerging one, so all the cells act according to their own rules, but they self-organize to form a pattern at a large scale.