Medical Microfiction: Brachymelia

Pseudosaurus

They’d spent generations cultivating human media to ensure their welcome. When they invaded, the humans would greet them as familiar friends and worship their new tyrants.

First, they introduced the hack novelist who wrote about cloning. Then the Hollywood blockbuster based on his book. That cartoon about the adorable brachiosaurus had been a stroke of genius.

But today’s headline ruined everything: EXPERTS SAY DINOSAURS HAD FEATHERS.

Aboard the mothership, the alien commander fumed. Undone by feathers!

“Orders, sir?” asked his subordinate.

The commander gestured with stumpy arms. “Bring me superglue and a feather pillow. I’ll need help reaching my back.”

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T-Rex
T-Rex (Photo credit: mcdlttx)

Brachymelia means having unusually short arms. Y’know, like a T-rex! Brachymelia explains why the alien commander’s gonna need a little help feathering his back in order to carry out his plot of cultural and actual invasion.

I like to think that even if actual Earth dinosaurs had feathers, somewhere out in the universe there’s got to be another species that resembles the scaly dinosaurs that Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg promised us. Unfortunately, it’s always possible that said aliens have bad intentions, and that our dinosaur-loving media is all just a ploy to lower our defenses against our dinosaur overlords.

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister.

Humans can have brachymelia too. In particular, it’s associated with achondroplastic dwarfism (also called achondroplasia), a form of dwarfism where a person’s head and torso grow to normal adult proportions, but the person’s limbs are shorter than average. The talented actor Peter Dinklage, who plays the badass Tyrion on Game of Thrones, exhibits achondroplastic dwarfism.

So how does the limb-shortness come about? Achondroplasia literally means “without cartilage development.” Bones (particularly the long bones of the arms and legs) usually grow in length during puberty via a process where cartilage is added to the growth zone of a bone. The cartilage is gradually converted into new bone, resulting in the arms and legs lengthening. People with achondroplasia have a genetic mutation that inhibits this process.

Now on to a more important question. Who would win in a fight between a T-rex and Tyrion Lannister?

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