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Constraints on Animal (and Plant) Form in Nature and Art

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The forms of all extant animals and plants agree with a small number of main architectural schemes emerged through the history of life, which function as largely invariant patterns of body syntax. To a considerable extent, these ‘rules of forms’ are obeyed by the products of imagination developed in myth and represented in art, such as chimeras, centaurs, mermaids, angels and dragons. The main exception to this rule is the frequent occurrence of additional sets of paired appendages, such as two wings added onto a human figure or a four-legged beast. However, Turpin’s Urpflanze is totally at variance with respect to the body syntax of existing plants. Generalized familiarity with animals’ body syntax provides a scope for perceptual manipulations experienced by humans but also by other animals.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of Padova, Padova, Italy


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