According to new research, the system proposed by Alan Turing during the two years of the world code warbreaker, more than 60 years ago, can explain the patterns of teeth resembling scales.
Researchers from the Department of Animal and Plant Science at the University of Sheffield have found that Turing's theory of reaction and diffusion – widely accepted as a method of calibration in mouse hair and chicken feathers – also applies to shark scales.
The findings can explain how the shark weight pattern has evolved to reduce resistance while swimming, thus saving energy during movement. Researchers are convinced that design studies can help develop new shark-inspired materials to improve energy and transport efficiency.
Turing, the computer's ancestor, invented the diffusion-response system that was published in 1952, two years before his death. His equations describe how molecular signals can interact to form complex patterns.
In an article published today (November 7, 2018) in the journal Progress in scienceResearchers compared shark scale patterns to the shape of chicken feathers.
The researchers found that the same basic genes underlying the feather modeling also underlie the development of shark hulls and suggest that these genes may be involved in creating patterns of other diverse vertebrate vertebrate structures, such as spines and teeth.
Dr. Gareth Fraser, previously from the University of Sheffield and now at the University of Florida, said: "We have started to look at the chicks and how they develop their feathers. We did not find these very nice lines of gene expression, where these spots appear which eventually grow in the feathers We thought that the shark might work similarly and we found two rows on the dorsal surface that start the whole process.
"We've joined forces with a mathematician to find out what the pattern is and if we can model it. We've found that shark skin filings are precisely modeled on a set of equations that Alan Turing – a mathematician, computer scientist and code breaker – has come up with.
"These equations describe how certain chemical compounds interact with each other during animal development, and we have found that these equations explain the patterns of these units."
Researchers also showed how improving the input of the Turing system can lead to differentiated scales, comparable to those found in today's living species of sharks and crayfish.
They suggest that natural differences in the Turing system may have allowed the evolution of the various traits of these animals, including the reduction of resistance and defense armor.
Rory Cooper, PhD student at the University of Sheffield, said: "Sharks belong to an ancient group of vertebrates, long separated from most other jaw vertebrates, and studying their development gives us an idea of what skin structures may have looked so early in the evolution of vertebrates.
"We wanted to learn about development processes that control the way in which these diverse structures are modeled, and thus processes that facilitate their various functions."
Researchers used a combination of techniques, including diffusion modeling, to create a simulation based on Turing's equations to demonstrate that his system can explain patterns in the shark scale when parameters are properly tuned.
Cooper added: "Scientists and engineers have been trying to create shark skin-inspired materials for many years to reduce resistance and increase the performance of both humans and vehicles.
"Our findings help us understand how shark patterns are modeled, which is necessary to enable them to function in reducing resistance.
Therefore, this research helps us understand how these resistance reduction properties first appeared in sharks and how they change between different species. "
Shaping is an important aspect that contributes to reducing resistance in some shark species. The shape of individual scales is another. Researchers now want to investigate the development processes that underlie shape variation both inside and between different species of sharks.
"Understanding how these two factors contribute to reducing resistance can, hopefully, lead to the production of improved, widely used shark-inspired materials capable of reducing resistance and saving energy," added Cooper.
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Materials provided by University of Sheffield. Note: The content can be edited due to style and length.