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Revisiting D'Arcy Thompson: Why are Jellyfish Round?

Speaker: Lea A. Goentoro, California Institute of Technology
Series: Saville Lectures
Location: Friend Center Convocation Room
Date/Time: Wednesday, April 12, 2017, 4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

A century ago, contemplating a sea brimming with jellyfish, D’Arcy Thompson wondered if the shape of a jellyfish could be likened to the equilibrium form of a gelatinous drop.  Although the shape of an animal is critical for its physiology, how an animal maintains its shape is not fully understood.  In this talk, I will present our explorations in the lab, using amputation and grafting, into how jellyfish maintain their radial symmetry.  We find that, rather than statically encoded, the shape of a jellyfish is a dynamic equilibrium, continually balancing competing forces — such that we can manually engineer jellyfish with alternative shapes, such as oval, trapezoid, and triangle. Beyond biology, our findings may inspire self-healing, self-organizing biomimetic technologies.