Nature’s Equation: Mathematical Model Unveils Evolutionary Connections in Chickens, Fish, and Frogs

In vertebrate gastrulation, an embryo undergoes a transformation from a single layer of cells to a multilayered structure known as a gastrula.

This process involves organized movements of cells, ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands, depending on the species.

In chick embryos, these movements are guided by patterns of actomyosin cables that span multiple cells, helping to coordinate the flow of tissues.

A collaborative effort between scientists at the University of California San Diego, the University of Dundee (UK), and Harvard University focused on studying gastrulation in chick embryos, which is similar to human embryos at this stage.

Led by UC San Diego Assistant Professor of Physics Mattia Serra, the team combined theoretical and experimental science to create a mathematical model that successfully predicted the complex cell movements during chick embryo gastrulation, involving tens of thousands of cells.

This marked a significant achievement as the first self-organizing mathematical model to reproduce these flows in chick embryos.


The scientists then tested the model’s ability to replicate known experimental outcomes and predict potential scenarios under different conditions.

By perturbing the model, they were able to change the initial conditions or parameters, leading to unexpected outcomes: the model produced cell movements not typically seen in chicks but observed in frogs and fish.

To validate these findings, collaborators in biology replicated the model’s predictions in the lab with chick embryos, which exhibited gastrulation flows typical in fish and frogs, confirming the model’s ability to predict and induce similar patterns in real biological systems.

Serra suggested that while fish, frogs, and chicks live in different environments, the evolutionary pressure may have led to changes in the parameters and initial conditions of embryo development over time.

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However, the self-organizing core principles in the early stage of gastrulation may be similar across these species.

Moving forward, Serra and his team aim to explore additional mechanisms that lead to self-organizing patterns on an embryo scale, with the goal of applying these findings in biomaterials design and regenerative medicine to contribute to longer and healthier human lives.

Are Tree Frogs Cannibalistic?

Cannibalism is observed among tree frogs, similar to other frog species. While tree frogs are typically carnivorous, smaller frogs of their own species are not usually part of their regular diet.

However, larger species of tree frogs may exhibit cannibalistic behavior, particularly when food is scarce.

As a result, experts advise against cohabiting different species of tree frogs in the same tank. It is not recommended to keep smaller species of tree frogs together with larger ones.

For example, if big-eyed tree frogs are kept with American Green tree frogs, there is a risk that the American Green tree frog may prey on the big-eyed tree frog.

This predatory behavior can occur not only in the wild but also in captivity. Learn more here, Can Tree Frogs Eat Each Other?

Muntaseer Rahman

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