The frilled dragon exhibits a distinctive large erectile ruff. This lizard usually keeps the frill folded back against its body but can spread it as a spectacular display to scare off predators. A multidisciplinary team led by SIB Group Leader Michel Milinkovitch at the University of Geneva reports in the journal eLIFE that an ancestral embryonic gill of the dragon embryo turns into a neck pocket that expands and folds, forming the frill. The researchers then demonstrate that this robust folding pattern emerges from mechanical forces during the homogeneous growth of the frill skin, due to the tensions resulting from its attachment to the neck and head.

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Montandon S A et al. Elastic instability during branchial ectoderm development causes folding of the Chlamydosaurus erectile frill. eLife doi: 10.7554/eLife.44455