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Spanning The Globe November 2023

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


Ekgmowechashala


Say what?


Well, if you would like to pronounce that word, head to this video and listen to Benjamin Burger say it, right at the beginning. Burger is an Associate Professor of Geology at Utah State University’s Uintah Basin Campus located in Vernal Utah.


The scientists who discovered ekgmowechashala used a Lakota name for the rare fossil they discovered.


Ekgmo = cat. Weschasha = man. La = little.


Or ‘little cat man.’


In this case, a primate.


Well, ekgmowechashala is in the news. This issue takes us back to when primates were here—long before humans arrived.


Yes, primates were here.


The news is that ekgmowechashala apparently endured (against all odds) for millions of years after fellow primates died out. This happened during the transition from the Eocene to the Oligocene, when the climate turned drier and cooler and should have proven inhospitable to the lemur-like animal.



Well, scientists found a match in the fossil record between a jaw and molars found in North America to a cousin found in China. The match fixed the phylogenetic tree.


The analysis showed that ekgmowechashal did not descend from an older North American primate. Instead, it crossed over the Beringian region millions of years later (in some ways they were leading the way for first Native Americans who followed).


In other words, ekgmowechashal was an immigrant (not a descendent).


Final thought: if you’re looking for a new mascot for your team, however, you might think twice about how ekgmowechashal works in sports chatter. Probably not as easy as Da Bears.


Fish Shoulders


Yes, how did the fish get its shoulders? It’s been a longstanding debate. Well, we are happy to report that Imperial College London’s Dr. Martin Brazeau and Natural History Museum researchers have been working on this and a new study turned up in the journal Nature.


There’s the “gill-arch” theory, that the shoulders emerged from bony loops that support the gills.


And there’s the “fin-fold” hypothesis, that the precursors of the paired fins evolved from a line of muscle on the flanks of the fish.


This debate is 150 years old!


Well, the “gill-arch” line of thinking is gaining ground now, thanks to a 407-million-year-old fossil of an early jaw-bearing fish called Kolymaspis sibirica. But it’s also possible that both theories are correct. We won’t go into major detail here, but the issue has to do with analyzing a fish’s “brain case” and also how jawless fish had more gill arches than the jawed ones (never more than five) meaning the sixth gill arch could have been incorporated into the shoulder.


All we know is that if the fish didn’t figure this out way back when, we likely wouldn’t be swinging a baseball bat or hanging off the monkey bars today. So, thank you, fish. And thank you, scientists and researchers!


We’ll stay tuned as the research continues.


Immune System


Now we know. Thanks to a recent study we can appreciate the fact that the human body’s immune system comprises 1.8 trillion cells dedicated to defending itself. If assembled altogether, as an organ, it would weigh more than a kilo.


What’s mind-blowing is that the 1.2 trillion cells represent just 0.2 percent of all the cells!


Most immune cells are located in bone marrow and the lymphatic system but the skin, lungs, and gastrointestinal system get some, too.


Did they count 1.8 trillion cells? No, they did not. But they used a very sophisticated method to make their calculations—and let’s just say it’s a good thing they were paying attention in math class.

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