Planarians and the History of Animal Regeneration: Paradigm Shifts and Key Concepts in Biology

  • Sarah A. Elliott
  • Alejandro Sánchez AlvaradoEmail author
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1774)


Regeneration has captured human imagination for much of recorded history. Its sociological influence is evident in ancient and modern folklore, art, politics, and even language. In many ways, the study of regeneration helped establish the field of biology as a legitimate scientific discipline. Furthermore, regeneration research yielded critical insights that challenged flawed scientific models and uncovered fundamental principles underpinning the workings of life on this planet. This chapter details some ways in which the study of animal regeneration—with special emphasis on planarian regeneration—influenced the evolution of thought in biology. This includes contributions to the discovery of stem cells, the nature of heredity, and key concepts in pattern formation.

Key words

Planarians Regeneration Embryology Genetics History Paradigm shifts Preformation Entwicklungsmechanik Stem cells Morphogenesis Polarity Gradients Fields Popular culture 



We thank Drs. Jochen Rink and Hanh Thi-Kim Vu for critical reading of the manuscript and many insightful suggestions that improved it. We thank Drs. Harold M. Elliott, Carlos Guerrero Hernández, Kazutaka Hosoda, Longhua Guo, Andrés Romero-Carvajal, Nobuo Ueda, Marina Venero-Galanternik, and Shigeki Watanabe for compelling discussions regarding the cultural significance of regeneration from ancient to modern times. We thank Rose Owens for obtaining electronic copies of many works cited, and Dr. Brian K. Hall for sharing numerous articles pertaining to C.H. Waddington. We also thank Jordan Hensley for technical computer assistance. A.S.A. is supported by NIH grant R37GM057260. A.S.A. is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Stowers Institute for Medical Research investigator.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah A. Elliott
    • 1
  • Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Biotechnology BuzzKansas CityUSA
  2. 2.Stowers Insitute for Medical ResearchHoward Hughes Medical InstituteKansas CityUSA

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