Looking for the logic in anatomy
September 9, 2018 9:52 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a specific kind of anatomy resource (book, online course, etc.). There are numerous resources that will tell me the location of muscles, their origin/insertion/action/etc. I want one that emphasizes patterns, comparisons, and the reasons why things are the way they are.

Why do some tendons have synovial sheaths but others don't?
Why are some muscles fan-shaped while others are more linear?
Why is there "duplication" of muscles that cross one vs. multiple joints in the same location?
What are the similarities between the shoulder and hip joints?
Why do the S1-S5 vertebrae fuse together so late in skeletal development?
What adaptations do humans have for walking/running on two feet?

Anyone of know of such a resource anywhere? Paid is okay. Mostly looking for bones/muscles/nerves related to movement.

Comparative invertebrate anatomy resources might be useful here too.
posted by Questolicious to Education (8 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
In before... people tell you evolution doesn't work that way.

They've been telling me ever since I was a baby biology student that "Why is it like that?" is not the question I should be asking, but that hasn't ever made me not want an answer. And I think there are valid and satisfying answers, as long as -- and this is really important -- you keep in mind at all times that the story of life on Earth is a story of making do with what you've got and getting the very occasional change that helps a group survive ever so very slightly, over huge numbers of generations. It is NOT in any way an iterative process toward some "best" way for an organism to be. But you know that.

It sounds like the best resource for you would be a comparative vertebrate anatomy textbook. I have one here that I still dip into periodically because two chapters are so kickass -- the evolution of the skeletal system, and the biomechanics chapters. When you see analogous skeletal structures from sharks, and various different fish, and salamanders, and mice, and people, you can trace what the ancestral animal was working with, and as new selective pressures arose for its descendants, how that structure changed. In my head, I will say something like "OK, in this animal, the femur is shorter and the tibia is longer because..." And the room goes dark, and into the silence a celestial voice booms out "IT DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY, pH INDICATING SOCKS." But as long as I never say it out loud, it is a satisfying way to understand things.

So here's the latest edition of the book I have.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 10:26 AM on September 9, 2018 [7 favorites]

You might want to look for physiology resources. I once took anatomy & physiology as an elective and it was simplistically described as "the what and the why."
posted by Ruki at 10:29 AM on September 9, 2018

Frankly, the only single resource I can think of that might answer such broad and varied questions is wikipedia. (Dirty little secret: wikipedia tends to be a pretty good and reliable resource for anatomy information.)

Thing is, you're relating all of those questions to human anatomy, so it seems like they're all related. But that's going in the wrong direction, starting with a singular endpoint and trying to work backwards. The answers to those questions emerge—from evolution, development, biomechanics, genetics, and many other processes that result in the human body we see and study today. Resources (plural) from those fields of research might have answers to your questions.

The best anatomy textbooks I could recommend tend to have not developmental or evolutionary explanations but common clinical correlations, i.e.: how and why things break.
posted by cyclopticgaze at 10:30 AM on September 9, 2018

Links to specific resources, please?

Cyclopticgaze, the clinical correlations would be very useful - which anatomy textbook has those?
posted by Questolicious at 10:34 AM on September 9, 2018

My favorite basic human anatomy book is Anne Gilroy's Anatomy an Essential Textbook. Textbook is almost a misnomer; it functions like an annotated atlas where relevant information surrounds the images of the anatomical regions. It's concise and hits a lot of high points and is an incredible value. The artwork is fantastic. The publisher, Thieme, has many other anatomy-oriented texts/atlases, many of which focus with more detail on certain regions and I recommend basically all of them.

I would also recommend people as resources. An anatomy or embryo/development professor would probably love to chat about your questions.
posted by cyclopticgaze at 11:14 AM on September 9, 2018

You would probably enjoy An Introduction to Human Evolutionary Anatomy by anthropologist and anatomist Leslie Aiello and Christopher Dean. This is the only book that got me through my gross anatomy class, when I wanted the WHY and all they wanted to teach was the clinical.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:29 AM on September 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I am a medical student. For clinical correlations, we use Clinically Oriented Anatomy (Moore).

For more of the whys/more analysis, I stumbled upon Grant's Method of Anatomy: A Clinical Problem-Solving Approach (Basmajian). It's older, but the information hasn't changed! This is not to be confused with Grant's Atlas of Anatomy (Grant).
posted by 8603 at 12:42 PM on September 9, 2018

On your journey towards why, you might find it interesting to look through some embryology. I had to study anatomy of the head and neck as part of my speech therapy degree and some of the anatomy is utterly crazy until you see how it develops in the embryo. That also will link in to your reading about other species as there are structures that are very similar in the embryo that go on to look very different.

Sorry I don't have any good resources to recommend.
posted by kadia_a at 2:30 PM on September 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

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