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Development of multicellular organisms depends on patterning and growth mechanisms encoded in the genome, but also on the physical properties and mechanical interactions of the constituent cells that interpret these genetic cues. This fundamental biological problem requires integrated studies at multiple levels of biological organization: from genes, to cell behaviors, to tissue morphogenesis. We have recently combined functional genetics with live imaging approaches in embryos of the insect Tribolium castaneum, in order to understand their remarkable transformation from a uniform single-layered blastoderm into a condensed multi-layered embryo covered by extensive extra-embryonic tissues. We first developed a quick and reliable methodology to fluorescently label various cell components in entire Tribolium embryos. Live imaging of labeled embryos at single cell resolution provided detailed descriptions of cell behaviors and tissue movements during normal embryogenesis. We then compared cell and tissue dynamics between wild-type and genetically perturbed embryos that exhibited altered relative proportions of constituent tissues. This systematic comparison led to a qualitative model of the molecular, cellular and tissue interactions that orchestrate the observed epithelial rearrangements. We expect this work to establish the Tribolium embryo as a powerful and attractive model system for biologists and biophysicists interested in the molecular, cellular and mechanical control of tissue morphogenesis.