Ben Best’s blog: A story with a tail

Hi! I grew a tail

What would happen if you woke up one morning and found that you had grown a tail, a kind of magnificent tail that dangled behind your back? It could have been weird but also interesting, especially the possible uses of an organ of this type. But we and the great apes (APES) parted from our tails somewhere in our distant evolutionary past, about 20 million years ago when our primate ancestors said hello to the tail that helped them live and evolve, and especially to maintain balance and balance as they skipped from branch to branch in the jungles where they are. Lived.

So how is it that we, along with other apes like the gorilla, chimpanzee and orangutan, have “suddenly” lost the tail? In retrospect, you can be happy with the result: we started to stand up straight, walk on two and develop a particularly swollen skull, but what was the trigger that caused it?

Not a simple question. After all, this is a very useful organ. The little monkeys along with a huge variety of other animals are aided by the tail for balance and movement. In the same breath we can also mention the birds that use it for flying, maneuvering and navigating as well as courtship, the geckos that know how to store fat in it, the deer that signal their tails to the young leaders who will follow them in the thicket and the bell snakes rustling at the tail end to scare their enemies. And this is a partial list.


Gorgeous tail growth

(Artwork by Lior Shkedi. @shkezi on ig. website: https://liorshkedi.com)

Our culture is laden with tails attached to superheroes, gods and human-like creatures

The question of our tail disappearing is far more interesting than it might seem. We’ll get back to that. In the meantime, it might be worth mentioning here the “marginal” fact that we are actually born with something that looks like a tail. In a short time, in our fetal period, around the 31st and 35th days of pregnancy, a kind of “tail” grows in our body, which gradually recedes and eventually becomes what we call the sting bone, or tail bone.

In a sense it can be said that the tail has not really left us. Human culture is laden with tails glued to all sorts of superheroes, gods and human-like creatures. One of these heroes, for example, is a young boy known as: Son Goku, a young superhero from an anime series known in Japan as “Dragon Boo”. Goku practices martial arts with a shaped tail dangling behind him. It comes from an advanced alien breed of primates that have a tail and they use it for a variety of operations, including whipping and suffocation as part of what is called: “tail attack”. It happens in comics.

Goku-kid - Masters the Art of Battle by Tail Attack (Wikimedia)

Goku-kid – Masters the Art of Battle by Tail Attack (Wikimedia)

He knows how to calm down and play wonderful melodies but also to stir and rage and fulfill his lusts

Another tail, known and known no less, is Pan, to the shepherds and herds that come from Greek mythology. Pan represents (also) the world of amusement and pastoralism in its strange character; Half man half goat. Out of this, he has horns and a beard and a tail. There are those who see pan as an expression of the personification of nature. He knows how to calm, seduce, play wonderful melodies, but also stir and rage and fulfill his lusts cruelly.

Why did Pan get this look? Why is his tail “tied” to him? A few years ago, two American researchers raised an interesting opinion about the origin of the shepherd god’s tail. In their view, the reason for this is more national. The myth could have formed against the background of watching those people suffering from a congenital disorder known as: Diastematomyelia, in which part of a spine is split, and a bone thorn appears that looks like a tail. People with this syndrome may have served as a model for the development of Pan’s ‘mythological appearance’.

Is Anne's tail related to a congenital human disorder?  The sculpture by Emmanuel Fremiet in 1867 - Musée d'Orsay, Paris.  (Photo by Tayfun Hakan, MD)

Is Anne’s tail related to a congenital human disorder? The sculpture by Emmanuel Fremiet in 1867 – Musée d’Orsay, Paris. (Photo by Tayfun Hakan, MD)

Naked and with a tail

This attempt to combine science and mythology has always sounded fascinating. When we stick a white tail to the human in modern times it can seem like a provocation, a mockery, and also a literary and cinematic means. In Scandinavian myths there is a seductive forest-tailed forest girl known as: Huldra, a name rooted in an ancient word that expresses a cover, or secret. In the Nordic countries it appears in different versions. A young Norwegian director named Nordaas produced a horror film a few years ago based on the character of the Holdera called Thale. In the film, a creature in the form of a young girl, who has undergone a mask of torture and medical tests, is discovered in an old basement, during which a tail is also cut off. The people who discovered her help, and at the end of the film, her contemporaries, the tails, succeed in rescuing and returning to nature and the world of shadows in which they exist.

Holdera's Version (Wikimedia)

Holdera’s Version (Wikimedia)

Holdra, Son Goku, Hal Pan and many others live for them in the myths, stories and imaginations of the people. In reality, the real tail is gone. Those who find it difficult to accept this fact may be able to use the products of a British company called The Tail Company. The company has engraved under its banner an interesting motto: to develop the most natural and real tail in the world. “

The company’s new tail line is called: miTail – a product described as an animatronic system, which is a combination of animation and electronics. Tail owners will be able to operate it through an app on the phone (Bluetooth connection for those who are interested) and without it, and control the level of excitement of the tail; From “calm and relaxed” to “frustrated and tense”.

I had a tail. Excerpt from the tail company video

It’s all, mutation

This digital tail revolution is perhaps the time to go back for a moment to another, biological revolution that took place in “Neogene” – the same ancient period on Earth that began about 23.5 million years ago. During it, the first apes began to develop – the ones that would eventually lead to the first homeless hominids and to us. The New York Times recently published a study by a team of scientists in New York that offers an explanation for how and how the tail disappeared? When talking about evolutionary changes, the blame, almost always, is on mutations, the same genetic accidents that may lead to a change in the traits of the living creature. In this case it turned out that a mutation that takes place in a gene called: TBXT is common to us and other apes and is lacking in apes.

A student named Bo Xia, a doctoral student in biology at the NYU School of Medicine in New York who led the study, genetically engineered mice with the TBXT mutation and found that a large proportion of them did not grow a tail, and at best, only a short stump. According to Xia it seems that about twenty million years ago this mutation accidentally struck a lone monkey (APE), causing it to grow only a stump of a tail, or not at all. It seems transparent that this man managed, even without the tail, to adapt to the environment, to survive and thrive, and most importantly, to pass on the mutation to his descendants. Good end, everything is good. This is evolution. The mutant form of TBXT has become the norm, and our tail – history.

Lemur (here and in the opening image).  Photo: Shatterstock

Lemur (here and in the opening image). Photo: Shatterstock

About the Author – Ami Ben Best

Entrepreneur, project manager on another journey and writer. In recent years, he has been specializing in the production of events and formats in the field of innovation and ‘creative type’ meetings for high-tech companies, organizations and academia, including meet-ups, workshops and non-conferences. Officer (Part-Time) in the MBA Program for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at University. Tel Aviv. And when not looking: writer, photographer, amateur astronomer and obsessive curiosity.
Ami Ben Best’s blog


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