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Spanning The Globe February 2023

It’s time to go spanning the globe for anatomy news and notes:



Racial Diversity in Anatomy

This article in Fierce Healthcare grabbed our attention. It’s about an updated 3D human anatomy model that features the “most expansive skin tone library available ever.” The manufacturer is Elsevier, a clinical practice content company.


According to the article, Elsevier believes that “inclusive models meeting students at their first day of medical school is an important step in addressing unconscious bias in future clinicians.”


In 2018, a study in the Journal of Medical Education and Curricular Development found that less than 5 percent of images in general medical texts included dark skin tones.


It’s an important issue for all the obvious reasons. And it’s also a medical issue, too. For instance, cancerous melanomas “present differently” on different skin tones. Developing the ability to diagnose melanomas on all colors of skin is critical.


A quick trip to the Elsevier website suggests the company is deeply committed to the issue of inclusion and diversity.


“Knowledge and innovation are born of diversity: diversity of people, ideas, thought, culture and perspective. In science and health — where knowledge can change a life or the destiny of our planet — diversity is essential,” states the company.


Agreed.


The Largest Egg

This article about Elephant Bird eggs (which could hold up to 11 liters of liquid) led us to ponder the whole issue of island gigantism. “Foster’s Rule,” named for mammalogist J. Bristol Foster, asserts that when mainland animals colonize islands small species tend to evolve larger bodies. At the same time, large species tend to evolve smaller bodies. This “island syndrome” creates differences in morphology, ecology, physiology, and behavior.



The Elephant Bird was a prime example—nearly 10 feet tall and weighing up to 1,100 pounds. Stop and ponder that one for a moment. Eleven-hundred pound bird. Yes, thanks for asking, they were flightless. They lived on the island of Madagascar for thousands of years.


Good to know that Elephant Birds ate fruits and seeds. They moved slowly. And they left humans alone. The reverse, however, was not true. Humans hunted them, which contributed to their demise (around 1200 AD).


An elephant bird egg is equal to 183 chicken eggs and the shells were used as bowls or for storing water. One egg, of course, could feed a very large family. You just need to find that elephant-size omelet pan.

Other examples of island gigantism? The giant tortoises of the Galapagos and the black bears (up to eight feel tall and up to 700 pounds) of Canada’s Queen Charlotte Islands.


The Bony Cap

File this under “fascinating.” And here’s to the scientists who keep relentlessly pursuing the little details of how we’re put together.


It’s been known since the late 19th century that both horses and humans have a small bone at the tip of their hoof and finger. But not much analysis has been focused on this interesting bit of comparative anatomy.


Until now.


Researchers at the College of Osteopathic Medicine published a study in January that makes the case that this “bony cap,” as they call it, plays a role in digit regeneration and nail growth. The scientists looked at humans, horses, and cats. The bony cap was present in all three species, they found, and it starts out as a distinct anatomical structure and then fuses with the tip of the digit.


Cats, however, didn’t quite fit the pattern. Their bony caps are hollow and remain adjacent to the distal phalanx. Why? The researchers posit that the separate bony cap may play a role in helping cats retract their claws. And, as this article in Phys.Org states, the scientists’ work may improve the scientific understanding of digit regeneration. The bony cap may act as a catalyst in this process.


You just never know when the little things will lead to something big.


Do you?

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