On Being The Right Size And Other Essays

On Being The Right Size And Other Essays-25
Ants, lobsters and many other invertebrates support their bodies with chitinous exoskeletons, but for much larger creatures, bony internal skeletons have been a better solution: Large exoskeletons would become either too constraining and heavy or too weak and prone to breakage.Muscular power is another area in which scale matters.Nearly all multicellular animals, except for simple ones like sponges, depend on muscles to move, and all their muscles use some form of contracting fibers in which filaments of the proteins actin and myosin pull past one another to generate force.

Ants, lobsters and many other invertebrates support their bodies with chitinous exoskeletons, but for much larger creatures, bony internal skeletons have been a better solution: Large exoskeletons would become either too constraining and heavy or too weak and prone to breakage.Muscular power is another area in which scale matters.

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West, Brown and Enquist argued that the difference has to do with how the geometry of these branching oxygen and nutrient delivery systems scale with body size.

Just as the diffusion of oxygen into tracheal tubes works for insect respiration but not for larger animals, other biological design strategies work well at certain sizes yet become unwieldy at larger or smaller ones.

The fact that surface area and volume increase faster than an object’s linear dimensions has profound and widespread implications for biology.

All living things feed, breathe and get around, but the various mechanisms used for them rely on biophysics that works best within certain size domains.

To address this problem, many small animals use flexible structures in their bodies as springs that they can cock and release like an archer’s bow.

The spring enables the small animal to store energy slowly and then release it all at once, thus amplifying its power.

’s free newsletters."data-newsletterpromo-image="https://static.scientificamerican.com/sciam/cache/file/458BF87F-514B-44EE-B87F5D531772CF83_source.png"data-newsletterpromo-button-text="Sign Up"data-newsletterpromo-button-link="https:// origincode=2018_sciam_Article Promo_Newsletter Sign Up"name="article Body" itemprop="article Body" Although Galileo demonstrated the contrary more than three hundred years ago, people still believe that if a flea were as large as a man it could jump a thousand feet into the air,” wrote the biologist J. The jumping muscles of a hypothetical six-foot flea could never keep pace with its scaled-up weight, Haldane explained.

Haldane in his delightful 1926 essay, , respectively).

The release of that built-up tension propels the frog’s leap, said Christopher Richards, a paleo-robotics researcher at the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London, who is using a combination of robotics, modeling and anatomy to understand how extinct frogs with diverse pelvic shapes and leg proportions used to jump.

The latch that the frog uses to release the stored power, however, remains a subject of intense debate: “That’s the million-dollar question,” Richards said. To my knowledge, nobody has found a latch in a vertebrate animal.” The latches have been figured out for only a handful of insect and crustacean systems.

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  • Galileo's Square-Cube Law -
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