How Intricate Patterns Grow in Flowers, Feathers
How does a growing flower bud or feather follicle know where to put the intricate colors and patterns on a mature flower or feather? Scientists are beginning to get partial answers.
Flower art: Imagine you’re a flower bud. You are blind, deaf, and dumb, but somehow you know how to create beautiful artwork. Through your efforts, a lovely rose, petunia or orchid will result. How would you do it? An article on Live Science suggests an amazing, though partial, answer: the bud has a map of the finished product. “The shape of a flower’s petals and leaves are dictated by a biological map hidden inside the flower’s growing bud,” according to a new study from the John Innes Centre and the University of East Anglia, both in the UK.
They discovered that concealed maps within the flower buds are made up of patterns of arrows that act as instructions for how each cell in the bud should grow. As such, the maps essentially influence a flower bud’s cell polarity, or the functions of the cells.
The study’s findings not only shed light on why geranium petals are unlike rose petals, they also explain why an individual flower’s petals and leaves are different shapes.
The “arrows” are made up of proteins called PIN proteins that migrate to the tips of cells. When they concentrate, a pointed leaf results. When they fan out, a rounded shape, like a flower petal results. Other proteins follow the “arrows” to cause growth in those areas. PLoS Biology discussed the paper in a little more detail. The original paper in PLoS Biology described how the growth proteins follow the “polarity field” set up by the PIN proteins.
Feather art: Bird feathers are vastly different from flower petals, but another amazing “mapping” mechanism controls their development. Feathers can contain stripes, spots, and nano-patterns that play tricks with light; see examples in PhysOrg‘s coverage of a paper in Science Magazine. What turns on the dark and light patterns? The new research paper by Lin et al., “Topology of Feather Melanocyte Progenitor Niche Allows Complex Pigment Patterns to Emerge,” offers the beginnings of an answer:
Melanocyte progenitors are distributed as a horizontal ring in the proximal follicle, sending melanocytes vertically up into the epithelial cylinder which gradually emerges as feathers grow. Different pigment patterns form by modulating the presence, arrangement, or differentiation of melanocytes. A layer of peripheral pulp further regulates pigmentation via patterned agouti expression. Lifetime feather cyclic regeneration resets pigment patterns for physiological needs. Thus, the evolution of stem cell niche topology allows complex pigment patterning via combinatorial co-option of simple regulatory mechanisms.
By “evolution,” the authors cannot assume that blind, undirected processes create the patterns any more than they create intricate feathers themselves. They merely mean that stem cells are regulated to generate the patterns. But what tells the stem cells to differentiate according to a predetermined pattern? What created the pattern in the first place that these mechanisms execute? The explanation begs even deeper questions.
Speaking of feathers, how would you like to dive into a feather on the wing of a red-tailed hawk and see its microscopic structure? You can live this adventure, along with many others, in a new film just released in May from Illustra Media entitled, Flight: The Genius of Birds. (Click the link for trailer and ordering information.) With cutting-edge science, stunning photography, an original music score and a thoughtful narration aided by the insight of biologists, the film makes a convincing case for intelligent design. Along with the previous release Metamorphosis: The Beauty and Design of Butterflies, this new entry forms the foundation to Illustra’s new series of high-quality nature documentaries, The Design of Life. Both were produced in High-Definition Blu-ray with 5.1 surround sound.
We are very happy to co-sponsor Flight: The Genius of Birds and will be drawing attention to it all month. CEH Editor David Coppedge worked closely with the producer on scientific research and proofing, but it was the genius of the production team led by Lad Allen, with his editor Jerry Harned, working with the biologists, the animators, the composer Mark Lewis and the sound technicians, and others, who made this film a masterpiece. The DVD is great, but if you have a good home theater, this is a film to enjoy in an immersive environment, with a Blu-ray player, a large screen and a surround sound system. Flight is the equal of secular nature documentaries—but without the Darwinism that is merely assumed by the others. It includes several incredible true stories about particular bird species. After being amazed by what you learn, and how beautifully it is presented, we are sure you will want to order extra copies of Flight to pass around. Order today! DVD ships May 14, Blu-ray on June 11.
And by all means, if you haven’t yet watched Metamorphosis, order them both! Readers delighted with the exceptional work of Illustra Media should support them financially. They have plans to augment The Design of Life series with more superb documentaries on the wonders of the living world. Nobody does it better than Illustra! Their films are reaching around the world. Be part of a team that is dismantling Darwinist materialism with clear, powerful, convincing evidence for design.