Monkey LungsSeptember 11, 2011
According to the flamboyant geneticist and evolutionary biologist J.B.S. Haldane, comparative anatomy is largely the story of the struggle to increase surface in proportion to volume. For human lungs this meant that as we grew larger, in order to bring enough oxygen to all parts of the body, the lungs increased in complexity. In comparison the lungs of a small monkey are not just much smaller but much simpler, as the anatomical specimens by Honoré Fragonard clearly illustrates. Earthworms don’t need lungs at all. All their oxygen is distributed through the skin.
As we start to shrink ourselves some parts of the body will be re-designed according to biological laws of scale and in the process they’ll reverse evolution’s direction towards ever greater complexity. The question is what to do with all the vacant space.
[…] influence developments, and what are the ramifications of biological principles? How will the simplification of physical function manifest itself in body design and how large will the head need to be to retain intelligence? Who […]
[…] as the housing, energy and food systems, as well as the body itself. J.B.S. Haldane has written on how lungs and other organs would be much less complicated if the body hadn’t become so big. Largeness leads to complexity and complex systems are […]