• colony formation;
  • computer simulation;
  • cytoskeleton;
  • diatom;
  • environmental switch;
  • linkage valves;
  • morphogenesis;
  • separation valves

The morphological plasticity and adaptive behavior exhibited during diatom colony formation in Aulacoseira is explored through computer simulation to study how the interplay of mechanisms such as cytoskeletal-driven membrane protrusions, silica deposition, and environmental factors may contribute to the generation of two distinct spine morphologies on linkage and separation valves. A multiscale agent-based computational model was developed, which showed that a single cytoskeleton-driven, competitive growth mechanism could generate either of the two characteristic phenotypes, given only a single switch in the environment (as might be experienced by a change in light regime). Hypotheses are formulated from the model, and predictions made for potential follow-up experiments.