The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 50: 123 - 134 (2006)

Vol 50, Issue 2-3

Special Issue: Developmental Morphodynamics

Principles of branch formation and branch patterning in Hydrozoa

Open Access | Published: 15 February 2006

Stefan Berking*

Zoological Institute, University of Cologne, Köln, Germany


The freshwater polyp Hydra produces buds which separate from the parent. Other Hydrozoa produce branches which remain connected to the parent, thus forming a colony. Some Hydrozoa grow by means of an organ that is like a shoot apical meristem. Others display a sympodial type of growth. In this article, I propose that these different types of branches are organized by a common pattern-forming system. This system has self-organizing properties. It causes branch tip formation and is kept active in the tip when the tip finally differentiates into a hypostome of a polyp. The system does not cause structure formation directly but rather, determines a tissue property called positional value, in such a way that a gradient of values forms in the tissue of the bud or branch. The local value determines the local morphodynamic processes, including differentiation of the hypostome (highest positional value), tentacles and basal disc and of the exoskeleton pattern along the shoot. A high positional value favors the onset of a new self-organizing process and by lateral inhibition, such a process prevents the initiation of a further process in its surroundings. Small quantitative differences in the range of the signals involved determine whether a bud or a branch forms and whether monopodial and sympodial growth follows.


Hydra, pattern formation, budding, sympodial growth, monopodial growth

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