The ornate and diverse patterns of seashells testify to the complexity of living systems. Provocative computational explorations have shown that similarly complex patterns may arise from the collective interaction of a small number of rules. This suggests that, although a system may appear complex, it may still be understood in terms of simple principles. It is still debatable whether shell patterns emerge from some undiscovered simple principles, or are the consequence of an irreducibly complex interaction of many effects. Recent work by Boettiger, Ermentrout and Oster on the biological mechanisms of shell patterning has provided compelling evidence that, at least for this system, simplicity produces diversity and complexity.
Keywords: complexity; model; mollusk; pattern; sea-shells.