My short ode to development, inspired by the image above, (via biocanvas):
Epithelial cells line surfaces and cavities throughout the body, forming skin, glands, and tracts. This mouse embryo has been genetically engineered to allow for the visualization of epithelial cells, showing the pattern of whisker placement on the face.
Image by Evan Heller, Rockefeller University.
The dance of biological development tops our best ballet or even our most magnificent marches. And it is truly a dance, as this video of a developing fruit fly embryo makes beautifully clear:
Those cells, darting to and fro! They are pulled in and out of furrows, sensing the position and identity of their neighbors, migrating and multiplying at the whim of invisibly overlapping chemical gradients. It’s a journey in both space and time, the emergence of greater form from a horde of interconnected individuals.
The whisker patterns of the mouse above are just one of the many awe-inspiring end results of developmental organization. While only a few of those nodes will sprout whiskers, the larger pattern drawn by development can be seen radiating outward toward the tail like rays from the sun.
These relics of organization often remain invisible in adult animals, although sometimes they do show through (like when humans have “stripes”). Jason Silva has said that “to understand is to perceive patterns.” I offer this as an accompanying idea: To exist at all is to emerge from the sum of patterns.