It’s an 80-year-old illustration showing the largest animals and plants in the world. The ugly little secret is item no. 10, that totally unnoticeable line in the middle of the picture just below the dinosaur and the snake.
All you have to do is click on the page and the image will turn interactive and you can find out what that is. (Psst! There’s a spoiler a couple of paragraphs down.)
The image first appeared in H.G. Wells, J.S. Huxley and G. P. Well’s book “The Science of Life”, published in 1931. One of the greatest biologists in the world, John Tyler Bonner (of Princeton) saw this as a little boy and still has it handy. He republished it in his landmark little book, “Why Size Matters”. You should browse for yourself.
I like how the authors suggest scale. Inside the blue whale on the top of the page standing next to an elephant, then again at the base of the giant Sequoia, you will find a man and a dog. They represent sizes that you know well to help you see how big these life forms are.
There’s a third man-and-dog just below item no. 10… which is the item that got my attention. Wells, Huxley and Wells say that’s a tapeworm (here comes the spoiler) found inside a human being!
Could it be our intestines are so convoluted that an animal can wiggle inside us and grow and grow and grow and become as long as a dinosaur? Show this to an 8 year old and you’ve created a nightmare that will last for decades.