Best At Drawing Animals In Motion: Cavemen

Researchers compared art from three time periods and found that modern artists got -- and are still getting -- animal gaits wrong far more often than expected.

What's the Latest Development?


Biological physicist Gabor Horvath and his colleagues decided to build upon a 2009 study that uncovered the high number of errors in drawings of moving quadrupeds found in anatomy textbooks and museum displays. This time, they compared 1,000 art examples from prehistory, the time period prior to Eadweard Muybridge's seminal films showing horses in motion, and the time period after the 1887 public release of those films. The findings, published this week in PLOS ONE, revealed that the drawings of prehistoric cave artists were the most accurate in terms of capturing an animal's true gait.

What's the Big Idea?

The researchers had estimated that, simply by chance, artists in general would get the gait wrong 73 percent of the time. However, art produced after prehistory but before Muybridge was wrong 83 percent of the time. Interestingly, the art produced after Muybridge was more accurate, but not by as much as one might think: 58 percent of samples were in error. Cave artists working between 10,000 and 50,000 years ago, on the other hand, got it right 54 percent of the time, suggesting that there's something to be said for having an extremely close relationship with the natural world.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Related Articles

Human skeletal stem cells isolated in breakthrough discovery

It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.

Image: Nissim Benvenisty
Surprising Science
  • Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
  • These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
  • The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Keep reading Show less

How exercise helps your gut bacteria

Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.

National Institutes of Health
Surprising Science
  • Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
  • Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
  • Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
Keep reading Show less

Giving octopuses ecstasy reveals surprising link to humans

A groundbreaking new study shows that octopuses seemed to exhibit uncharacteristically social behavior when given MDMA, the psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy.

Image: damn_unique via Flickr
Surprising Science
  • Octopuses, like humans, have genes that seem to code for serotonin transporters.
  • Scientists gave MDMA to octopuses to see whether those genes translated into a binding site for serotonin, which regulates emotions and behavior in humans
  • Octopuses, which are typically asocial creatures, seem to get friendlier while on MDMA, suggesting humans have more in common with the strange invertebrates than previously thought
Keep reading Show less