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#1 User is offline   MTP Reggie 

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Posted 14 June 2019 - 07:40 AM

How Modern Life Is Transforming The Human Skeleton
By Zaria Gorvett
13 June 2019
BBC

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It all started with a goat. The unfortunate animal was born in the Netherlands in the spring of 1939 and his prospects did not look good. On the left side of his body, a bare patch of fur marked the spot where his front leg should have been. On the right, his front leg was so deformed, it was more of a stump with a hoof. Walking on all fours was going to be, let's say, problematic.

But when he was three months old, the little goat was adopted by a veterinary institute and moved to a grassy field. There he quickly improvised his own peculiar style of getting around. Pushing his back feet forwards, he would draw himself up until he was standing half-upright on his hind legs, and jump. The end result was somewhere between the hop of a kangaroo and a hare, though presumably not quite as majestic.

Sadly the plucky goat was involved in an accident soon after his first birthday, and he died. But there was one final surprise lurking in his skeleton.

For centuries, scientists had thought that our bones were fixed that they grow in a predictable way, according to instructions inherited from our parents. But when a Dutch anatomist investigated the goat's skeleton, they found that he had begun to adapt. The bones in his hips and legs were thicker than you would expect, while the ones in his ankles had been stretched out. Finally his toes and hips were abnormally angled, to accommodate a more upright posture. The goat's frame had started to look a lot like those of animals which hop.

Today it's an established fact that our skeletons are surprisingly malleable. The pure white remains displayed in museums may seem solid and inert, but the bones beneath our flesh are very much alive they're actually pink with blood vessels and they're constantly being broken down and rebuilt. So although each person's skeleton develops according to a rough template set out in their DNA, it is then tailored to accommodate the unique stresses of their life.

This has led to a discipline known as "osteobiography" literally "the biography of bones" which involves looking at a skeleton to find out how its owner lived. It relies on the fact that certain activities, such as walking on two legs, leave a predictable signature behind, such as sturdier hip bones.

And from the discovery of a curious spiky growth on the back of many people's skulls to the realisation that our jaws are getting smaller, to the enigmatic finding that German youths currently have narrower elbows than ever before, it's clear that modern life is having an impact on our bones.

For an example of how osteobiography works, take the mystery of the "strong men" of Guam and the Mariana Islands. It began with the discovery of a male skeleton on the island of Tinian, which lies 1,600 miles (2,560km) east of the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean, in 1924. The remains were dated to the 16th or 17th Century, and they were positively gigantic. The man's skull, arm bones, collarbones, and the bones of his lower legs suggested that he had been immensely strong and unusually tall.

The finding slotted in nicely with local legends of enormous ancient rulers, who had been capable of truly heroic physical feats. Archaeologists called him Taotao Tagga "man of Tagga" after the island's famous mythological chief Taga, who was renowned for his super-human strength.

As other graves were discovered, it became clear that the first skeleton was no anomaly; in fact as well as fiction, Tinian and the surrounding islands had been home to a race of extraordinarily brawny men. But where had they got their strength from?

As it happens, the strong men's remains were often found lying next to the answer. In the case of Taga, he was buried amongst 12 imposing carved stone pillars, which would originally have supported his house. Meanwhile, a closer inspection of his bones and others has revealed that they have similar features to those from the Tonga archipelago in the South Pacific, where people do a lot of stone working and building with massive rocks.

The largest such house on the island had pillars that were 16ft (5m) high and weighed nearly 13 tonnes each about as much as two full-grown African elephants. This was no mysterious race of muscular giants; the men achieved their powerful builds by sheer hard work.

If, in the future, the same technique were used to piece together how people lived in 2019, the scientists would find characteristic changes in our skeletons that reflect our modern lifestyles.

"I have been a clinician for 20 years, and only in the last decade, increasingly I have been discovering that my patients have this growth on the skull," says David Shahar, a health scientist at the University of The Sunshine Coast, Australia.

The spike-like feature, also known as the "external occipital protuberance" is found at the lower back of the skull, just above the neck. If you have one, it's likely that you will be able to feel it with your fingers or if you're bald, it may even be visible from behind.

Until recently, this type of growth was thought to be extremely rare. In 1885, when the spike was first investigated, the renowned French scientist Paul Broca complained that it even had a name at all. "He didn't like it because he had studied so many specimens, and he hadn't really seen any which had it."

Feeling that something might be up, Shahar decided to investigate. Together with his colleague, he analysed over a thousand X-rays of skulls from people ranging from 18 to 86 years old. They measured any spikes and noted what each participant's posture was like.

What the scientists found was striking. The spike was far more prevalent than they had expected, and also a lot more common in the youngest age group: one in four people aged 18-30 had the growth. Why could this be? And should we be concerned?

Shahar thinks the spike explosion is down to modern technology, particularly our recent obsession with smartphones and tablets. As we hunch over them, we crane our necks and hold our heads forward. This is problematic, because the average head weighs around 10 pounds (4.5 kg) about as much as a large watermelon.

Text neck

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#2 User is offline   Howsithangin 

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Posted 15 June 2019 - 01:51 AM

Fascinating! Thanks for posting! Love this tuff!

I had never heard of the "..."strong men" of Guam and the Mariana Islands". Time to do some reading.

BTW, these giant stones to which the article refers are called 'latte stones'. The comprise the foundation of prehistoric Micronesian A-frame houses. Photo below

http://guam-online.com/landmarks/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/lattestone.jpg

This post has been edited by Howsithangin: 15 June 2019 - 01:57 AM

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#3 User is offline   Severian 

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Posted 15 June 2019 - 09:07 AM

Well, I know today there are some damned big Polynesians out there. My dad served with a guy who he kept having to get medical waivers for weight every year when they ran the physicals. He was "overweight" but there was hardly an ounce of fat on him, guy was built like a brick refrigerator. I remember I was a kid and we sold him our old TV as dad finally bought a color set (yes, I'm old). We had this big Magnavox B&W TV, round sided tube, all tube set, in a metal cabinet painted to look like wood. Thing weighed a ton. He came by with his truck to collect it, dad says I'll help you get it out to the truck. Nah, the guy says, squats down, wraps his arms around the set, and just lifts it up and walks with it all the way out to the truck. Little me is sitting there with my mouth hanging open, I'd seen the contortions my dad had to go thru just to get it from one side of the room to the other.

Whenever some of the troops needed a "talking to" this guy would get them between in the corner between the walls and the Coke machine in the day room and bounce them around for a bit. Solved most discipline problems without having to put an Article 15 in the guys record, saved paperwork too. I think most of them feared this guy, but nobody crossed him.
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#4 User is offline   Howsithangin 

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Posted 16 June 2019 - 02:06 PM

View PostSeverian, on 15 June 2019 - 09:07 AM, said:

Well, I know today there are some damned big Polynesians out there. My dad served with a guy who he kept having to get medical waivers for weight every year when they ran the physicals. He was "overweight" but there was hardly an ounce of fat on him, guy was built like a brick refrigerator. I remember I was a kid and we sold him our old TV as dad finally bought a color set (yes, I'm old). We had this big Magnavox B&W TV, round sided tube, all tube set, in a metal cabinet painted to look like wood. Thing weighed a ton. He came by with his truck to collect it, dad says I'll help you get it out to the truck. Nah, the guy says, squats down, wraps his arms around the set, and just lifts it up and walks with it all the way out to the truck. Little me is sitting there with my mouth hanging open, I'd seen the contortions my dad had to go thru just to get it from one side of the room to the other.

Whenever some of the troops needed a "talking to" this guy would get them between in the corner between the walls and the Coke machine in the day room and bounce them around for a bit. Solved most discipline problems without having to put an Article 15 in the guys record, saved paperwork too. I think most of them feared this guy, but nobody crossed him.


Samoan? They can be gigantic.
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#5 User is offline   MontyPython 

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Posted 16 June 2019 - 05:27 PM

View PostHowsithangin, on 16 June 2019 - 02:06 PM, said:

Samoan? They can be gigantic.


That's a fact! Back when I lived in White Center (a small slum in southwest Seattle, and definitely the most ridiculously misnamed neighborhood in the greater Seattle area), there was a large Samoan presence. And I mean "large" in every sense of the word. Those guys are HUGE.

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