Introductory Anthropology Notes – Not Blood, But Globin

Originally published on June 20th, 2016, at Edited and republished at on March 10th, 2017.

Not so long ago, I learned that the red stuff which sometimes spatters the stove in my kitchen isn’t blood. I don’t remember exactly how I learned it, but I think it involved having my wife look something up online while I was cooking dinner. And the gist of what either she or I discovered is that meat, by the time you’ve bought it from whatever big box grocery store meat department, has been relieved of its blood. What’s actually spattered in my kitchen is myoglobin.

I remember, too, how that sounded an awful lot like a technicality, to me. While I wasn’t completely right (blood is blood and not-blood is not blood, after all), I wasn’t completely wrong, either.

One blood component which has been briefly touched upon in the introductory anthropology lectures I’m listening to is hemoglobin.

You see the similarity already, right? -globin, meet -globin. Hemo- and myo- share a root. And they share a purpose, too. While hemoglobin grabs onto iron molecules and uses them to transport oxygen around in the blood, myoglobin serves the same purpose in muscle tissue. In both cases, it’s that oxygenated iron — think rust — that gives both globins their red pigment.

Globins are a subset of proteins; and proteins, to directly quote Wikipedia, “are assembled from amino acids using information encoded in genes”.

So, even when we’re discussing the not-blood spattered in my kitchen, we’re still discussing genetics. We’re still concerned with — whether we recognize it or not — genetics, inheritance, and evolution.

Never mind turtles; it’s genes all the way down, baby…

And even plasma is thicker than water.