Aren’t scales smart? In animals, scales are the protective, bony plates that grow out of the creature’s skin. Scales are also used in human armor. In both cases, scales are meant to protect the animal within—while allowing him maximum ease of movement. Big, stable areas (like an alligator’s belly) have fewer, larger scales—sometimes stretching from side to side. Complex areas (like joints) usually have more and smaller scales, thus allowing greater flexibility, range and ease of movement. While scales have continued to evolve over the millennia, they also seem so prehistoric. I wasn’t surprised to learn that pinecones—the scaly pods which protect (and then spread) the pine tree’s reproductive system—have been found from prehistoric times. It is thought that the female pinecone (they come in two sexes) evolved from soft to tough in order to discourage their consumption by dinosaurs.
Non-living scales exist too, from the shingles (or shake) on bungalow walls to the terra-cotta tiling which leads water off the roofs of Mediterranean homes. The vase above, made by Jasba in the 1960’s or 1970’s, is decorated with a classic, scaly pattern—which makes it modern and prehistoric at the same time.
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