Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

From the Cover: Segmented spiral waves in a reaction-diffusion system.

PMID 14645709


Pattern formation in reaction-diffusion systems is often invoked as a mechanism for biological morphogenesis. Patterns in chemical systems typically occur either as propagating waves or as stationary, spatially periodic, Turing structures. The spiral and concentric (target) waves found to date in spatially extended chemical or physical systems are smooth and continuous; only living systems, such as seashells, lichens, pine cones, or flowers, have been shown to demonstrate segmentation of these patterns. Here, we report observations of segmented spiral and target waves in the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction dispersed in water nanodroplets of a water-in-oil microemulsion. These highly ordered chemical patterns, consisting of short wave segments regularly separated by gaps, form a link between Turing and trigger wave patterns and narrow the disparity between chemistry and biology. They exhibit aspects of such fundamental biological behavior as self-replication of structural elements and preservation of morphology during evolutionary development from a simpler precursor to a more complex structure.

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