So I’ve finally managed to catch up on the last couple of epiodes of Ben Garrod’s Secrets of Bones. These episodes first looked how the skeleton in vertebrates helped to sense the world whilst the second looks how it helps with hunting. As with the previous episdoes Ben Garrod takes us through a variety of animals and their skeletal adaptations which illustrate the beauty and plasticity of bones.
Episode 4, entitled ‘Sensing the World’, and looked at the eyes and the ability to hear and smell and how the bones assist with this. An example of how the skull has adapted to assist with imporving sight can be seen in the tarsier. This primate has giant eyes and orbits to match in order to locate and catch insects. They are noctural animals and have evolved to have large eyes in oder to take in as much light as possible. I remember looking at these amazing skulls during my second year at university. The aim of the class was to examine, study and learn the different characteristics of the primare skulls and the tarsier’s is one I will never forget!
Towards the end of the episode the focus shifted to the ability to smell and I was happy to see that one of my skulls of the month made it to the list! This was the polar bear which has a bony structure in the nasal bones called the turbinates. This area warms up the area whilst the other areas are covered with hundreds of sensory cells. In addition to the polar bear another one of skulls of the month about the sperm whale also featured in the programme. This whale has a grooved channel in it’s lower jaw which transfers returning echos which the whale puts out to build up a picture of it’s surrounding. This is an incrediable animal made even more awesome with it’s ability to echolocate.
Moving on from the whale’s jaw episode 5 looks at the skeletal adaptations to assist in an animals ability to get food. Of course when you think of incrediable jaws in the animal kingdom you have to think of the snake. I always thought that a snake dislocated it’s jaw to consue it’s prey but that’s not the case – the lower jaw is not one complete bone but two which is sttached by strong, flexiable ligaments. It is these ligaments which allow the snake’s jaw to stretch. It was pretty awesome yet distusting to watch!
The middle part of the epsiode was about teeth and how they vary between differnet animals. At first we saw an elephants molar and learnt that they have six sets of teeth through out their lifetime; which is pretty cool! We were also shown the spealised teeth of the crab eating seal which uses them as a filter. I think I was actually shown a jaw of this seal on my first visit to the Natural History Museum’s stores quite a few months back. They were really impressive but really unusal!
The final part looked at how primates have evolved to have an opposable thumb. There was a particular focus on the human hands, but I will come back to that in a later post. However another primate, the Ayi-Ayi a lemur, was also shown. This is because of their incrediable middle finger which is elongated and thin. This is used as a tool to tap on trees to try and locate grubs. It does this by ecolocation, the only primate to d oso, and once a grub has been found it breaks into the tree and uses it’s finger again to drag the grub out. I have always found this animal intriguing; it looks unusal but has amazing adaptations.
Once again Ben Garrod presents the episodes with ease and I throughology enjoyed them. Next weeks episode look at the skeleton and how it aids with getting a mate – I’m very much looking forward to it!