Week 3: Bones, Bunkyo, and everything in between!
Konnichiwa! Tomorrow will mark the end of my third week in Japan, and my research is well underway. As a refresher, I am examining long bone developmental plasticity in Japanese macaques, or Macaca fuscata. During development, various external factors such as nutrition, chemicals and climate can affect the expression of a genotype. The basis of this research stems from the theories on growth in response to clinal differences offered by two researchers named Bergmann and Allen.
Bergmann and Allen: Who are they, and what were their theories?
Carl Bergmann was a German scientist who, in 1847, theorized that species in colder climates tend to be larger in size, while those in warmer climates tend to have smaller overall body mass. This applies to most mammals and birds, especially larger species.
Later, in 1877, an American researcher named Joseph Allen examined the relationship between climate and limb length, specifically in vertebrate species. He stated that animals that are adapted to colder climates will have shorter limbs and appendages, while those in warmer climates will have longer limbs. Allen also posited that this same relationship applies to body surface area to volume ratio. These differences aid in heat dissipation in warmer climates, and heat conservation in colder climates.
Research Goals in Japan at the PRI
While these differences have been established in many species, I am interested in how these differences are achieved. I want to know: Are these differences clinal in response to a temperature gradient, or is it a response in gradation due to gene flow?
I am exploring this question by using the robust Japanese macaque skeletal collection (pun intended) housed at the Primate Research Institute, under the guidance of Dr. Takeshi Nishimura. Data collection for each skeleton involves measuring different areas on specific bones to derive the growth occurring in each sample. Some of the measurements involve weights, but I will talk more in depth about those data next week. Once the initial data collection is complete, CT scans of the femora will be taken using a pQCT scanner to explore robusticity in the samples. I am still working on the sampling, but expect to be finished in July.
Exploring Tokyo’s Many Districts
Once the weekend arrived, I hopped on the Shinkansen to the Bunkyo ward of Tokyo to visit some of the other JSPS fellows and explore a few of Tokyo’s districts. We spent Friday exploring Shinjuku, which is vibrant and bustling in the evenings! The whole area exudes energy from the buzz of the crowds and marquees illuminating the streets.
On Saturday, I took the opportunity to go to Harajuku, which is in the Shibuya district. This area is known for its unique art and fashion, and is also home to the famous Takeshita street. It is lined with brightly colored, cute stores full of clothes, makeup, food and more. In the evening, we wandered around Harajuku and stumbled across an art gallery that had an okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake) restaurant tucked away in the back. The walls were lined with artwork by the artists-in-residence and you got to cook your own food on a grill in the middle of the table!
Before I headed back to Inuyama on Sunday, I took to opportunity to try some Michelin-starred ramen at Nakiryu. After a two hour wait, I sat down in one of 10 chairs in the entire restaurant and was treated to a large bowl of tantanmen, which is spicy noodle ramen. The flavor of the ramen was life-altering; a complex blend of rich and creamy sesame/red pepper broth mingled with the handmade noodles cooked to perfection. Needless to say, it was well worth the wait.