Perhaps the fabella will soon be known as the appendix of the skeleton.
April 23, 2019 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Textbooks will tell you that the human body contains 206 bones. But sometimes, there are 208. The fabella, a small bone in a tendon behind the knee, was lost over the course of early human evolution, but these days it’s becoming more common, according to a study published this week (April 17) in the Journal of Anatomy.
posted by Etrigan (13 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
"Correction (April 22): This story has been updated from to correct the number of bones people with fabellae have—208, not 207. The Scientist regrets the error."

Blame Latin plurals.

(fabella means 'little bean'... fabellae = knee beans!)
posted by iamkimiam at 9:51 AM on April 23, 2019 [14 favorites]

Also some people only have two bones in their baby toes and not 3.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:17 AM on April 23, 2019

Kitty toe beans are cuter than human knee beans.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:30 AM on April 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'd be interested in a catalogue of anatomical changes in humans over the last century. The obvious things, like increased height and size generally, are kind of interesting-- but details like these fabellae are fascinating.

To my knowledge, I don't have fabellae, but I do have accessory naviculars, so I guess I have 208 too.
posted by nat at 10:48 AM on April 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Oh hey, this is my friend's research! Together, we co-organize the Anthropology Engineering Network. It's been fun seeing this bounce around the news and internet. Last time we hung out, we did very tasty shots at a gay bar in Cleveland and I appreciated my knees.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:48 AM on April 23, 2019 [20 favorites]

I read the summary of a report of this to Mrs Clanger the other day and she misheard me as saying that some people have a falabella in their knees, which led to brief confusion.
posted by Major Clanger at 12:11 PM on April 23, 2019 [5 favorites]

I learned how variable human bodies are when my back surgeon told me that I have an L6 vertebrae; most people have L1 - L5 but somehow I have one more.
posted by octothorpe at 12:47 PM on April 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

We are definitely overthinking a plate of knee beans here.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:53 PM on April 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

Oh hey! I have knee problems. Any way I could tell if I have these? Short of an x-ray, that is.

Actually... I have older x-rays and an mri somewhere. Off to look...
posted by greermahoney at 1:33 PM on April 23, 2019

“Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face? It leads directly to reverse evolution back to knee-beanery!”
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 3:54 PM on April 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

this reminds me of a story from Frank Zappa's autobiography about one of the figures in the general orbit of the Mothers in the late-sixties LA music scene. said dude was an eccentric who was living on inherited money and, having once read Gray's Anatomy, noted that there were a significant number of minor skeletal muscles which were noted as "(when present)".

he then embarked on a project to create a system of exercises that would cause hypertrophy in all of his "when present" muscles. according to Zappa, the guy appeared pretty skinny and not particularly buff at first glance, but on further inspection was covered in weird lumps, and could perform bizarre feats of strength like bending iron bars by holding them against the back of his neck and pressing forward with his upper arms in some unlikely series of motions

anyway bodies are weird
posted by murphy slaw at 10:24 PM on April 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

Is there an anatomic term for things that aren't always present? I'd be curious to see a list.
posted by lucidium at 11:02 AM on April 25, 2019

For bones, the term is accessory bone. There's a lot of interesting bits in that article.

I don't know of a more broad term including non-bone anatomy.
posted by nat at 10:02 PM on April 28, 2019

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