Table of Contents


Visual Models of Morphogenesis:

A Guided Tour

Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz, Mark Hammel, and Radomir Mech

Department of Computer Science
University of Calgary
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
Rapid progress in the modeling of biological structures and simulation of their development has occurred over the last few years. It has been coupled with the visualization of simulation results, which has led to a better understanding of morphogenesis and given rise to new procedural techniques for realistic image synthesis. This hypertext document reviews models of morphogenesis with a significant visual component, which were developed or reproduced in the Computer Science Departments at the University of Regina (1987 - August, 1991) and the University of Calgary (September, 1991 - present). The material is based on papers [Pru1993, Pru1994a], which cover the topic in more depth and include more extensive lists of references.


Keywords: morphogenesis, simulation and visualization of biological phenomena, developmental model, reaction-diffusion, diffusion-limited growth, cellular automaton, L-system, realistic image synthesis.

If a natural object or organism demonstrates consistency of form [...], such symmetry is the consequence of Something rather than Nothing.

Adrian D. Bell [Bel1985]

This document has its origins in two survey papers on the development of biological structures. The first appeared in the Proceedings of Graphics Interface '93 [Pru1993] and the second in Artificial Life [Pru1994a]. In 1994, Mark Hammel and I presented the main theses of these papers in a hypertext document available through the World Wide Web, complemented with additional images and computer animations. The original version of this document also appeared on the Siggraph '94 Courses CD-ROM as a part of the Modeling Natural Phenomena course. Material from several other papers, in particular [Fowl1992] , [Pru1994c] , and [Mec1996] was subsequently added to the WWW version.

The WWW document is presented here using two formats. The plain format includes no in-line images (except for navigational icons) and animations. Hopefully, this will make the text easier to read with terminal-based browsers or using slow communication links. The text includes hyperlinks to images and animations. To display them, viewers for JPEG images and QuickTime movies are needed. Each image and animation link has a references associated with it. This reference provides the title of the particular piece, copyright information, and, in the case of animations, the size of the QuickTime file. You may wish to check the references for animations before downloading them, since some are quite large (ranging in size from 28KB to 3.3 MB).

The deluxe format, prepared in 1997 by Christian Jacob, puts more emphasis on the appearance of the pages, which, in particular, include in-line images and animations. A fast communication link is necessary to achieve a reasonable access time.

It is my intention to keep updating this document so that it remains a current description of the work on visual models of morphogenesis in our lab.

If you have any comments on Visual Models of Morphogeneis: A Guided Tour, please send me e-mail to

Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz
May 8, 1997