Once again, it’s time for another round-up of all the anatomy news that’s fit to blog about!
Time and Travel Tripping
For generations, those of us interested in anatomy have assumed that it was a European development which followed the Greeks’ interest in bodily form. Accordingly, the practice of dissection and anatomical study has been traced back about 400-700 years.
But new research is showing that Chinese ‘researchers’ (our modern-day term for people examining things in order to advance their knowledge), had a big jump on the Greeks. It’s a finding that pushes back many hundreds of years the practice of dissection.
Writing in the Anatomical Record, Vivien Shaw, Rui Diogo, and Isabelle Catherine Winder, report that the Chinese were investigating the human form more than 2,000 years ago.
Previously, scientists had thought that Chinese researchers typically avoided dissection because of the veneration of one’s ancestors. But the trio has reinterpreted texts which, they say, indicate the dissection of people who were criminals, they said. Their criminality allowed for post-mortem dissection, they write.
Of course, those Chinese researchers were not necessarily looking for various systems, like the digestive tract, circulation, nervous system, etc. Instead, and in keeping with what we recognize now as Eastern or Chinese medicine, they were looking into the body’s many meridians or energy pathways throughout the body.
Wondering how the current pandemic will shape our future culture? Relax. It might take a while.
Here’s some perspective:
We believe humans in some form appeared on earth about 300,000 years ago. But it took about 250,000 years for Homo Sapiens to start making an impact behaviorally and culturally. That’s when scientists began to recognize ‘modern behavior,’ a consequence of a developing brain.
We started having long-term monogamous pair bonds between men and women and formed larger social groups.
We created shelters.
We recorded stories.
We used fire and tools.
Our daily lives may feel like they’re evolving rapidly, right? But zoom out for the Big Picture: compared to the gigantic leaps humans made with using tools and telling stories, these are tiny baby steps.
Norwegian scientist Allan Krill was hiking with students on the Bright Angel trail in the Grand Canyon when they came upon the oldest vertebrate tracks in the area and one of the earliest examples of footprints left by vertebrates. The fossils were dated to 313 million years ago.
Krill’s colleague, Steve Rowland, of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, believes the creatures are likely four-legged reptiles who were egg-laying and about a foot-long. They walked with a lateral sequence gait (indicated by moving both front and rear legs of the same side forward at the same time) and had claws.
Meanwhile on Venus…
Phosphine gas is a killer. Amateur scientists and fans of Breaking Bad know this. In the pilot episode of the award-winning television series, Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) kills Krazy-8 and his cousin with it. Phosphine gas is a by-product of making methamphetamine. Walter knew this. Krazy-8 did not.
What scientists also know is that phosphine gas can be a marker of past life. That is, when phosphine lingers in an atmosphere, it may be the indication of biological life sometime in the past. That’s what astrobiologists are postulating after the observance of phosphine gas in the atmosphere of our closest planet, Venus.
“We’re not saying it’s life,” says astronomer Jane Greaves of Cardiff University in Wales, one of the researchers studying the planet’s atmosphere. “We’re saying it’s a possible sign of life.”
But don’t pack your bags quite yet. Venus is home to crushing gravity and regular rains of sulfuric acid. The most hospitable areas may be in the cloud decks. If so, the anatomical structure of those life forms won’t look anything like they do here on the third rock from the sun.