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Spanning the Globe IV

Once again, we are here to round up all the anatomy news that’s fit to blog about!

We loved this story about Ape Anatomy and Evolution, a new 450-page book by Adrienne Zihlman. Yes, 450 pages. About a decade of work went into the effort. According to a lengthy piece from the University of California Santa Cruz news bureau, Zihlman was determined to not take a “piecemeal” approach to studying apes. She wanted a “whole animal” approach. Ape Anatomy and Evolution is unlike conventional textbooks, which typically focus on one body part or one body system at a time. The book compares the anatomy of the four major apes: gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, and gibbons.

Zihlman said she was driven to “illustrate the idea that human evolution shares so much with the apes.” Zihlman said she did not want to produce a traditional anatomy textbook, which she called “very narrow, very technical, very boring … You never get a sense of the whole animal. My underlying principle was a desire to understand their evolution and adaptation, and to give readers a sense of where the animals lived, how they moved, and what their particular ecological niche was."

Congratulations to Adrienne Zihlman and collaborator Carol E. Underwood, who produced the illustrations and graphics. And here’s to the “whole animal.”

We’re tempted to hop a plane and head to Pennsylvania for this show at Elizabethtown College. Anatomy in Art Project: Exploring Anatomy in Everyday Life runs through Dec. 15. Elizabethtown College anatomy and physiology students are presenting anatomy using a variety of household objects, such as dining supplies, clothing, books, and toys—as well as paint and ceramics—to demonstrate the functions of the human body. As an “E-Town Now” news release states, the college students were influenced by the STEAM movement, which combines ideas of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics to invoke critical thinking. “I hope this exhibit inspires people to learn more about the incredible anatomy all around them, inside and out,” said Associate Professor of Biology, Anya Goldina. Congratulations to all involved.

We almost stood up and cheered when we ran across this quote from science teacher Ann Nguyen, who teaches at Mountain View High School in northern California: “I want students to feel empowered about their own health,” she said. “I think the American healthcare system is so chaotic, convoluted, and broken that I want students to have some understanding of it for themselves and their friends.”

Agreed! We all have a need to understand anatomy for many reasons, but being a knowledgeable advocate when it comes time to interact with a doctor or any health care professional is a good reason to develop a better understanding of your physical being and how it works. Ms. Nguyen sounds to us like a fantastic anatomy teacher. She received her master’s in biology but only “fell in love” with anatomy, as the article states, after being required to teach the class at San Jose High School. Nguyen became an advocate for the anatomy class “ever since science curriculum became more focused on global warming, climate change, and modern earth science issues and less concentrated on the human body.” Thanks for all you do, Ann Nguyen.

The headline was a grabber (at least to us): Stunning ancient skull shakes up human family tree

This started with an Ethiopian goat herder named Ali Bereino. (Now is a good time to pause for a moment and consider all the random ways that science marches forward!) Anyway, in 2016, as Bereino was trying to get a job with a group of fossil hunters in northeastern Ethopia, he dug a burrow to keep his baby goats safe from hyenas. And Bereino noticed teeth protruding from the sand. What he found was a jawbone, which Bereino brought to the team leader, paleoanthropologist Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Ohio.

Three years later, researchers finally dated the fossil at 3.8 million years old—and kick-started a discussion. Is the jawbone from Australopithecus anamensis? If so, the fossil could “shake up” the entire family tree, including study of a genus of upright apes who lived between 4.2 million and 2 million years ago.

As we have mentioned before, these scientists have our deepest admiration. We are all part of a story that began a long time ago. These hard-working scientists all believe, as do we, that the evidence is here (if we look hard enough) to fill in the missing pieces of the story that will tell the entire history, detail by detail, of evolution. Perhaps one day one of Ann Nguyen’s students, fired up by her passion for human anatomy, will be out in the Ethiopian plains, helping uncover the information we need.

By the way, as the article notes, Ali Bereino earned himself a job!








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