2020-06-27Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/24018
D’Arcy W. Thompson’s Cartesian transformations: a critical evaluation
The images of D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson’s book “On Growth and Form” got an iconic status and became influential for biometrics and other mathematical approaches to organismic form. In particular, this is true for those of the chapter on the theory of transformation, which even has an impact on art and humanities. Based on his approach, Thompson formulated far-reaching conclusions with a partly anti-Darwinian stance. Here, we use the example of Thompson’s transformation of crab carapaces to test to what degree the transformation of grids, landmarks, and shapes result in congruent images. For comparison, we applied the same series of tests to digitized carapaces of real crabs. Both approaches show similar results. Only the simple transformations show a reasonable form of congruence. In particular, the transformations to majoid spider crabs reveal a complicated transformation of grids with partly crossing lines. By contrast, the carapace of the lithodid species is relatively easily created despite the fact that it is no brachyuran, but evolved a spider crab-like shape convergently from a hermit crab ancestor.
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