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Humanoids with Segmented Skeletons?

  1. Feb 10, 2014 #1
    Hello everyone,

    A while ago I played XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and, at some point, I carried out an autopsy on a "Thin Man". Now, one of results of the discoveries of the autopsy is that a "Thin Man" has a segmented skeleton, rather like the serpent, which is supposed to be reason for their "spectacular range of motion in combat". See Thin Man Autopsy for for more information

    I find the concept rather intriguing, and so I plan to incorporate as a trait of a character. That said, the information XCOM supplies is minimal...and, of course, I'm wondering if it really works like that. Naturally, I understand Fantasy/Sci-Fi tend to take liberties with reality, but I'm curious to what extent in this regard

    So, in other words, I have a number of questions about this topic. And yes, I should note that biology was never my strong point, so be prepared for potential novice questions. Plus, English is not my native language so I might be unaware of certain scientific terms.

    Anyway, my questions are the following:

    - Is it actually remotely feasible for a human-like entity to have a segmented skeleton to begin with, or is this anatomically impossible and solely part of the realm of fantasy?

    - Are there any "special" requirements for a human to have a segmented skeleton, and, if they are, what are they? That is to say, could a segmented skeleton be a single trait, or would a part of a "package deal" in the sense that a segmented skeleton in itself requires other anatomy changes?

    - What would be the advantages and drawbacks of possessing such a skeleton compared to a normal human's?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 10, 2014 #2


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    Welcome to Physics Forums! What do you mean segmented skeleton? A snake skeleton is like any other vertebrates; they just have a much longer vertebral column with a correspondingly high number of ribs and nothing else (aside from a skull).

    Are you asking what an organism would be like if its limbs were made in a similar arrangement? If so I imagine that said organism would have a high amount of dexterity but wouldn't be able to stand like a human. A long solid bone has a much higher load bearing capacity than a vertebral column. Consequently it is unlikely such an organism would look like a human but rather some sort of terrestrial octopus.

    EDIT: upon thinking more I guess it is possible to get a humanoid organism with vertebral limbs but they would have to be quite small to take into account the decreased load-bearing capacity of their legs. They'd also be relatively weaker.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2014
  4. Feb 10, 2014 #3
    Thank for you the welcome Ryan.

    Those are helpful answers and the concept of a terrestrial octopus certainly is interesting.

    I'm not sure what the game means with the term segmented skeleton; it struck me as a bit vague. Hypothesizing that XCOM itself might mean that, in regards to a "segmented" skeleton, they only refer to the skeletal structure of the torso and neck as being "segmented"; the limbs would still have relatively normal anatomy. However, since a human's spine is already segmented to begin with, would there be any real differences between a normal human and human whose torso and neck segmented like that of a serpent? If I understand correctly, it appears that the differences wouldn't be overly significant, if any.
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