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  1. Virtually all forms of life, from single-cell eukaryotes to complex, highly differentiated multicellular organisms, exhibit a property referred to as symmetry. However, precise measures of symmetry are often difficult to formulate and apply in a meaningful way to biological systems, where symmetries and asymmetries can be dynamic and transient, or be visually apparent but not reliably quantifiable using standard measures from mathematics and physics. Here, we present and illustrate a novel measure that draws on concepts from information theory to quantify the degree of symmetry, enabling the identification of approximate symmetries that may be present in a pattern or amore »biological image. We apply the measure to rotation, reflection and translation symmetries in patterns produced by a Turing model, as well as natural objects (algae, flowers and leaves). This method of symmetry quantification is unbiased and rigorous, and requires minimal manual processing compared to alternative measures. The proposed method is therefore a useful tool for comparison and identification of symmetries in biological systems, with potential future applications to symmetries that arise during development, as observed in vivo or as produced by mathematical models. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Recent progress and open frontiers in Turing’s theory of morphogenesis’.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 27, 2022
  2. Cellular differentiation is one of the hallmarks of complex multicellularity, allowing individual organisms to capitalize on among-cell functional diversity. The evolution of multicellularity is a major evolutionary transition that allowed for the increase of organismal complexity in multiple lineages, a process that relies on the functional integration of cell-types within an individual. Multiple hy- potheses have been proposed to explain the origins of cellular differentiation, but we lack a general understanding of what makes one cell-type distinct from others, and how such differentiation arises. Here, we describe how the use of Boolean networks (BNs) can aid in placing empirical findingsmore »into a coherent conceptual framework, and we emphasize some of the standing problems when interpreting data and model behaviors.« less