Fun fact or nightmare fuel, you decide. Artist Satoshi Kawasaki illustrated a book called Turtle Shells Have Ribs: A Picture Book of Animal Anatomy Represented by the Human Body. The art depicts what it would look like if humans would look like with animal anatomy. The drawings are educational, but also uncanny in a way you can’t unsee. The titular fun fact that turtle shells are actually modified ribs comes with skeletal diagrams. But once Kawasaki adds skin to the illustration things get wild.
I regularly get asked if a turtle is a vertebrate (yes!), and I think the confusion stems from folks thinking the shell is like a crab’s or snail’s. Fun fact: the turtle shell is modified RIBS. pic.twitter.com/qIvliv0Ku5— Ceri Weber (@ceri_weber) June 10, 2021
Last year, a turtle researcher shared Kawasaki’s artwork to highlight the fact that turtles are vertebrates. Her tweet went viral and even got picked up by the local news. Most other animals with shells are invertebrates, like crabs and snails. Another fun fact in the thread is that all tortoises are turtles, but not all turtles are tortoises.
「カメの甲羅はあばら骨 人体で表す動物図鑑」— 川崎悟司 (@satoshikawasaki) November 27, 2019
The book includes illustrations of humans with the adaptations of many animals: the long neck of a giraffe, the pecs of a pigeon, a flamingo’s stance. The image below includes what the human arm would look like if designed for digging dirt versus scooping water. Bird wings look relatively normal but the modified hand of bat wings are another story.
Human legs would also look very different if we evolved like other animals. Dogs and cats walk on the pads of their feet while horses and cows walk on modified toes. The length of the different legs bones are wildly different depending on lifestyle. The picture below also shows a leg used for jumping and one for perching on branches.
Infographics are one of science communication‘s best tools. A picture is worth a thousand words after all. And these pictures will certainly stay in your brain, whether you want them to or not.
Featured Image: Satoshi Kawasaki/SB Kurieitibu