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12 facts I've learned from "Secrets of Bones"


The amazing "Secrets of Bones" with Ben Garrod has just this minute finished its final episode on BBC4 just now.  It's been absolutely amazing, and the best series on bones I have seen, and each episode seemed to go so quickly. The level of it has been pitched just right. There was loads I didn't know, but there was nothing that I didn't understand.

I had been looking forward to it since last July when Ben told me it was going to happen (it didn't even have a title then). I really enjoyed doing my interview with Ben a few weeks ago as well. So what were the best facts in it ? Here were my favourites:

1. Cheetahs have flexible spines to help them run faster

Even though I have two cats, it amazed me how a cheetahs spine could be so flexible! It is much more flexible than other animals because the cheetah is the fastest land animal, so it needs a back which can bend and flex to help it increase it's stride and help the legs.

2. Big orbits can indicate the animal is nocturnal.

Tarsier monkeys have large eye sockets in proportion to their head, and each eye is as big as their brain. Large eyes can help draw in as much light as possible, which is useful if they live in low light or if they are nocturnal.

3. It takes 1.7 tonnes of force to break a roe deer femur 

It was amazing how it takes 1.7 tons to break a roe deer femur when pushing down the length of it ! I thought it would be a LOT less then that. (Also, Ben jumped out of his skin which was completely worth paying the licence fee to see) 

4. Whales have such an unusual shaped skull to help with sonar.

The whale family, which includes dolphins and harbour porpoises, have such unusual shaped skulls because having a forehead which slopes in helps reflect sonar echoes back into their sensor, which sits in front of the skull, in the same way a satellite dish picks up a TV signal.

5. Pigeons can take off and fly vertically

Out of all the birds, I've never been that excited about pigeons or woodpigeons, but it turns out that before pigeons take off, they jump really high before their first flap of the wings, so when the wing come down they don't touch the floor. They then can fly vertically up for 20 metres, which is useful in cities where they often live. Pigeons: respect.

6. Emu wings are ridiculously small

I suppose it should have been obvious, but it was still a surprise. It just goes to show how evolution means that all birds have the same skeleton, but it has adapted for each different species, and there's no reason for emus to have big wings.

7. Ben seemed to spend half of each episode walking to places.

Seriously, buy him an Oyster Card or something. (Only kidding !)

8. Human jaws are getting smaller

Thousands of years ago, human jaws were much smaller than what they are now because we were eating a lot of hard to grind food . Now that are food is cooked and processed, a large jaw is less of an advantage.

9. Aye-ayes have a ball and socket joint on their finger

Aye-ayes have a long bony finger on one of their hands, which makes them weird enough. They use them for tapping very fast on trees to make grubs come up to the surface and the aye-aye eats them. But this long finger has a ball and socket finger joint, similar to the hip joint, which lets them have more flexibility in the finger.

10. Large canines can sometimes be for sexual selection, not just for eating.

In male Mandrill monkeys they grow much bigger than females, as it's a sign that they are healthy and so females want to mate with them. (In ducks, the colour of the bill does the same thing, and in some deer species, the antlers so the same thing)

11. Total respect for longhorn sheep 

I never realised that they joust for females, much like red deer so, except they bang their skulls at 20mph ! The sutures in the skull help the plates flex and absorb the shock. This has made me think more about red deer skulls, where the sutures become very very complex with age, but don't actually fuse. Are they the same ?

12. When cornered, Ben Garrod will threaten people by wielding a massive baculum

Not really. But walrus bacula were used as weapons ! Imagine being killed by a penis bone !

I have really enjoyed Ben's program. Ben's also really nice, and he's been answering questions on Twitter throughout the programme. He's also been a great help to me for YEARS. I hope they do a second series !

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Ric said...

Second series? An absolute MUST. And a book and a DVD release (even tho I recorded 'em all).

Psydrache said...

I laughed so hard about that baculum thing xD

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