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An open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond

"Stripped Bare" the art of animal anatomy

 “Stripped Bare: The Art of Animal Anatomy.”

You have to see this book. It’s unlike anything you’ve seen before. 

 

Author David Bainbridge has collected hundreds of images, ancient and new, showing animals without feathers, fur, or flesh. What you see are skeletons and organs in detail simply incredible.

 

There are horses, chickens, flamingos, sharks, whales, frogs — anything and everything about which someone, today or hundreds of year ago, had curiosity.

 

Horses get particular attention. There is a 1599 drawing of a horse skeleton, the leg joints — hip, knee, ankle — giving the impression of mechanical construction. Then there is Leonardo da Vinci’s study for a mechanical wing, a bone and what looks like a hinge. It’s easy to see how reality feeds imagination.

 

There is the well-known set of photos by Edward Muybridge, taken in 1887, that settled once and for all this much debated question: when a horse gallops in there any point at which all four feet are off the ground? Yes. See frames 2 and 3.

 

There are the photos of the Galapagos finches, similar but for shape of the beak, that helped Charles Darwin develop his theory of evolution. There is a 1602 drawing of a rabbit with horns. Call it the first jackalope, that critter hanging on the wall in western bars. Many drawings show the result of the artist relying on second-hand information.

 

The anatomy of a snake is hard to imagine when you see the animal. It is no easier in the illustrations, all of those vitals strung end to end in such a narrow space. 

 

How were some of these drawings made given the wet and unwieldy condition of the guts of the animals, and the time of creation — the 16th through the 19th century? It had to be messy work. Yet, the detail is there. 

 

There are bird skeletons and drawings of an embryo’s ascending stages. With one exception, as the author says, one bird looks much like other birds. Except, I suggest, the flamingo, odd looking in life, positively strange when all you see are its assembled bones, its jointed neck longer than its skinny legs.  

 

In 1555, Pierre Belon drew comparisons of skeletons of man and bird. The similarity cannot be missed. Belon illustrates how much we share with beasts, says author Bainbridge. He calls this ”one of the most charming curios in all of anatomical art.” 

 

The lungs of a frog, drawn in 1661. A sheep’s brain from 1664. On and on, page after page, illuminations of life in extraordinary detail. 

 

Richard Owen in his book “On the Anatomy of Vertebrates” shows the bony structure of  a fish, a copy reproduced here. Baisnbridge comments on how animals gradually lost many of those bones on their way toward becoming mammals. It’s a lesson in evolution.

 

Recent advances in imagery — xrays, magnetic resonance images, scans, microscope photography, tractography — have provided new information, entirely new ways to see things. The artistic values seen in pre-modern work is missing, however. 

 

The author concludes with modern artistic use of bones — Georgia O’keeffe’s sun-dried cattle bones in her desert depictions. They're beautiful, but they don't match the pen-and-ink drawings of centuries past for beauty and impact.

 

Published in September by Princeton Presss, hardcover, 255 pages, index, 260 color images, $29.95.

"The Three-minute Outdoorsman Returns"

There are two Bob Zinks. 

 

One is the ornithologist, Dr. Robert Zink, who once led the ornithology department at the University of Minnesota and now is a faculty member in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

 

The other is his alter ego, Bob Zink, who changes from lecture clothes to camo for outdoor adventures and observations, guided by an unbound curiosity. Here, he is aka The Three-Minute Outdoorsman. 

 

Dr. Zink is author of many scientific papers. As Bob the outdoorsman he is author of articles in Minnesota’s sportsman tabloid, “Outdoor News,” articles collected first in a book entitled “The Three-minute Outdoorsman: Wild Science from Magnetic Deer to Mumbling Carp,” and more recently in “The Three-minute Outdoorsman Returns: From Mammoth on the Menu to the Benefits of Moose Drool.”

 

Bob is a man who feeds his curiosity with scientific research papers, probably one of few hunters who does that. Yes, he is a hunter, venison a favorite meat. The questions he has and the answers he finds are given to readers in stories generated by his time in the field, often with hunting bow in hand.

 

The latest book has several essays about white-tailed deer. He explores questions about wild sheep, dirty kitchens, Passenger Pigeons, dogs, road kill, fish, catch-and-release, and water fleas, among many other things.

 

There are particularly pointed comments on the problems caused by feral cats and house cats allowed to roam outdoors. He wonders why the City of Minneapolis bends to the demands of the pro-cat lobby at the same time it favors bird-safe glass at U.S. Bank stadium. The cat lobbyists feed feral cat colonies. Feral cats kill far more birds than ever will die flying into stadium glass.

 

There is more and more, including another chapter on cats: “A Scientific Program Dedicated to Eradicating Feral Cats.” 

 

Cat fan or not, you'll enjoy being outdoors with Bob. Meet a man who knows how to find a good answer to an interesting question.

 

The book, published by the University of Nebraska Press, has 297 pages, is soft bound, costs $19.95, and can be found at nebraskapress.unl,edu if not in a bookstore. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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