Monkey Lungs

September 11, 2011 By arne hendriks 2

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 as 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.