Versatility of Turing patterns potentiates rapid evolution in tarsal attachment microstructures of stick and leaf insects (Phasmatodea).
Büscher TH, Kryuchkov M, Katanaev VL, Gorb SN.
In its evolution, the diverse group of stick and leaf insects (Phasmatodea) has undergone a rapid radiation. These insects evolved specialized structures to adhere to different surfaces typical for their specific ecological environments. The cuticle of their tarsal attachment pads (euplantulae) is known to possess a high diversity of attachment microstructures (AMS) which are suggested to reflect ecological specializations of different groups within phasmids. However, the origin of these microstructures and their developmental background remain largely unknown. Here, based on the detailed scanning electron microscopy study of pad surfaces, we present a theoretical approach to mathematically model an outstanding diversity of phasmid AMS using the reaction-diffusion model by Alan Turing. In general, this model explains pattern formation in nature. For the first time, we were able to identify eight principal patterns and simulate the transitions among these. In addition, intermediate transitional patterns were predicted by the model. The ease of transformation suggests a high adaptability of the microstructures that might explain the rapid evolution of pad characters. We additionally discuss the functional morphology of the different microstructures and their assumed advantages in the context of the ecological background of species. J R Soc Interface. 2018 Jun;15(143). pii: 20180281. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2018.0281.
par Vladimir Katanaev