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Development of insect wing vein patterns

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Researchers report a developmental model for reconstructing the complex and elaborate vein patterns seen in insect wings. The study of vein formation in insect wings has previously focused on primary veins, which are structural elements whose geometric arrangements are shared within a species and between the left and right wings of each individual insect. Secondary veins, by contrast, form patterns that are specific to each individual and even differ from the right wing to the left wing. However, the mechanisms underlying the formation of secondary veins as well as their exquisite specificity are unknown. Chris H. Rycroft, Seth Donoughe, and colleagues analyzed images of 468 wing patterns from 232 insect species to construct distributions of secondary vein characteristics, such as area and shape of enclosed vein domains and lengths and angles of vein branches. Based on this data, the authors constructed a model of secondary vein formation in a developmental framework. The model defines regions delineated by primary veins, applies a stochastic distribution of zones of signaling inhibition, and constructs secondary veins to bound the inhibitory zones. Results show that the model is largely effective in recreating secondary vein patterning for distantly related insects across three orders. According to the authors, the model can be used as a testbed to further explore molecular mechanisms of insect wing formation and to test hypotheses about the evolution and development of wing features.

Article #17-21248: "A simple developmental model recapitulates complex insect wing venation patterns," by Jordan Hoffmann, Seth Donoughe, Kathy Li, Mary K. Salcedo, and Chris H. Rycroft.

MEDIA CONTACT: Chris H. Rycroft, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; tel: 510-207-0172; e-mail:


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