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Spanning the Globe X

It’s time once again to go spanning the globe for anatomy news and notes!

One word: phosphorous.

We can’t recommend this article in The New York Times enough!

What happened to the brachiopods and briopods that once ruled the Cambrian Period (some 500 million years ago)?

Turns out it could have been a struggle over phosphorous. When bony fishes showed up, about 70 million years later, they stole this precious element. As a result, the “armored” mariners went extinct.

This new work, it turns out, is part of a broad array of research into phosphorous and the variety of things it is capable of doing, including holding DNA molecules together. Chemists, the article relates, are exploring how phosphates managed to season the “prebiotic broth that gave rise to life in the first place.”

The article offers powerful insight into evolution and how species changed based on what was available. One “lingering mystery” is how early life tapped the available phosphate—because there should not have been much. That’s because most waters today are “pretty lean” in terms of phosphate (the biochemically useful form of phosphorous).

But researchers theorized that less available oxygen way back when would have given iron less ability to hoard phosphates. They developed a way to test the idea and realized that Iron left the phosphates alone when oxygen was subtracted from the equation. That made the phosphate available for any “proto cells” that might be interested.

One more fun fact from this fascinating piece: “The body stores and burns energy by perpetually making and breaking the phosphate bonds found in the cell’s little cash machines, its adenosine triphosphate molecules, better known as ATP. The phosphate recycling operation is so relentless, Dr. Powner said, ‘you basically turn over your body weight in ATP every day.’”

Something to ponder!


Off to India we go for an article in India Today about the importance of art and encouraging use of art in biology classes. Indeed!

The article points out that Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore pioneered the idea of art-integrated learning.

“Tagore's concept of education defines a school as not just an ‘ideological apparatus’ but as a cultural institution in which science and art have an equivalent and interdisciplinary role. He strongly advocated education through the arts.”

We love those words—“equivalent and interdisciplinary” when it comes to combining art and learning. Imagine.

India’s National Education Policy, adopted in 2020, emphasizes art “as a medium for powerful learning experiences” including in the core subjects of mathematics, physics, biology, and history.”

And, a side note: the aforementioned Rabindranath Tagore? We had to look him up. What a story! He was a Bengali polymath (1861-1941) who worked as a poet, writer, playwright, composer, philosopher, social reformer and painter. He was the first lyricist and first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Tagore started writing poetry when he was eight years old. At age 16, he released his first substantial poems under a pseudonym. The literary “authorities” decided they were long-lost classics.

Anyway, besides feeling like underachievers, we’d like to think Rabindranath Tagore would have been a big fan of the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System for its natural interdisciplinary integration of art and anatomy.


A rendering of “Mindy.” Photo from

Meet the future human. Her name is Mindy. She’s here to show us our bodies are likely to change from using smartphones, laptops, and related tech. The analysis was conducted by an international telecom company,

Mindy’s hand looks more like a “permanently molded” claw shape from consistently gripping smartphones.

She’s got “smartphone elbow,” too. That’s from keeping the elbow bent for a long time while holding a phone, resulting in stretching the nerve behind the elbow. And she’s got a hunched back and a thicker neck from looking down for hours at smartphones. It’s possible she’ll develop a second eyelid to protect the eyes from too much light exposure, too.

Mindy looks, from our current view, deformed. But who among us hasn’t observed a line of people (say, waiting to order coffee) and noticed that they are all standing there, hunched over, staring down at their phones? Right?

The blog on points out that the projected look of Mindy is clearly exaggerated. But nonetheless, the blog points out, we all need a balance between maximizing the productivity technology offers with employee wellbeing.

Oh, and what’s the cure to prevent us from looking like Mindy?

Breaks, people. Take breaks and get exercise.

Human anatomy is something we are shaping, collectively, each and every day.

#anatomyinclay #brachiopods #briopods #phosphates #equivalentandinterdisciplinary #Mindy


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