Geometry and dynamics link form, function, and evolution of finch beaks


Salem Al-Mosleh, Gary P. T. Choi, Arhat Abzhanov, and L. Mahadevan. 2021. “Geometry and dynamics link form, function, and evolution of finch beaks.” PNAS. Publisher's Version
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Darwin’s finches are a classic example of adaptive radiation, exemplified by their adaptive and functional beak morphologies. To quantify their form, we carry out a morphometric analysis of the three-dimensional beak shapes of all of Darwin’s finches and find that they can be fit by a transverse parabolic shape with a curvature that increases linearly from the base toward the tip of the beak. The morphological variation of beak orientation, aspect ratios, and curvatures allows us to quantify beak function in terms of the elementary theory of machines, consistent with the dietary variations across finches. Finally, to explain the origin of the evolutionary morphometry and the developmental morphogenesis of the finch beak, we propose an experimentally motivated growth law at the cellular level that simplifies to a variant of curvature-driven flow at the tissue level and captures the range of observed beak shapes in terms of a simple morphospace. Altogether, our study illuminates how a minimal combination of geometry and dynamics allows for functional form to develop and evolve.
Last updated on 11/24/2022