Last October I blogged about Halloween costumes and the importance of being anatomically correct when stepping out as a skeleton. I am sure that bone lovers everywhere are equally tetchy about other anatomically incorrect Halloween accoutrements, because if the manufacturer has taken liberties with anatomical accuracy, we would have to question both their world view and commitment to all-around quality.
Let’s start with a biology refresher. Worms, obviously, do not have bones, but neither do some critters that crunch when stepped on. For instance, insects, spiders, and crustaceans (lobsters, shrimp, etc.) have exoskeletons made from thin, waterproof, semirigid shells of chitin. This certainly is a successful means of protection and support, but it presents a problem when the owners want to expand, They have to crawl out of their skeletons and grow a new ones. In the interim, they are vulnerable to predation and may turn into soft-shelled crab sandwiches. Clams, snails, scallops, and oysters avoid this perilous transition by merely making regular additions to the edges of their calcium-based exoskeletons and gradually enlarge them without having to leave home.
Animals with spines (vertebrates) have endoskeletons. For sharks, that means rubbery cartilage (the same material that constitute our noses and external ears). Bony fish, and amphibians (frogs, salamanders, etc.), reptiles including birds, and mammals (including us) have skeletons made of rigid, calcium-laden bone. Its durability allows bone to preserve evidence of formerly living animals, which is integral to the concept of Halloween.
After this brief biology overview, you can probably spot what is wrong in these pictures.
Look at the ears on the dog and horse. They are as out of place on a skeleton as a stocking cap or moustache would be. Worse, however, are the lobster and spider. My spine shudders to see them represented with bony endoskeletons rather than with their naturally occurring chitin armor.
On viewing the original version of this post earlier today, sharp-eyed bone lovers also identified several disturbing errors in skeletal anatomy on the human in the foreground. The lower legs are on the wrong side. (The thicker bone, the tibia, should be on the inside of the thinner bone, the fibula, on the outside.) The right hip is dislocated, which may account for the pained expression on the skeleton’s face. It looks like there are eight sets of ribs rather than twelve. At least the human skeleton is not sporting bone ears as do the horse and dog.
As you come across Halloween decor this week, please document other bone infractions and send photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will notify the Bone Police immediately. I know, it’s frightful, but then, that’s what Halloween is about.
And if you find Halloween’s disrespect of bones irksome, it gets worse. Watch for A Bone Lover’s Thanksgiving Nightmare, coming soon.
For Halloween and all other special occasions, no gift is in finer taste or will be more appreciated than a copy of Bones, Inside and Out, now also available in Russian.