10 Strange Things Evolution Left on Your Body

Evolution has given the human body some odd parting gifts, like the appendix. People just don't eat as much tree bark as they used to.

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The human body has been a work in progress for about the last six million years, so it’s understandable if over that time we’ve outgrown some of our components.

Our tonsils, once intended to be the all-natural wall nasty pathogens need to penetrate in order to call our bodies home, are now usually infection culprits themselves. When was the last time you heard tonsils being name-dropped if it wasn’t in reference to having them removed? Much like the appendix, which humans did at one point rely on to help digest a diet much heavier on the greenery, tonsils are now something that have become a cottage industry for surgeons.

When in doubt, grab a scalpel and start slicing.


Source: Nagaraju raveender / Wikimedia

This is the classic useless organ, at least according to popular thought. It’s hard to determine what its purpose is or once was since it’s not something that appears universally in other animals.

Some have it, some don’t. We do.

An appendix, when it appears, usually appears in herbivores, so the common opinion is that it once helped us digest plants back when we ate a lot of mostly indigestible plants. We can afford to be a bit pickier about what we eat these days, so we don’t need an organ like that anymore. If, in fact, we ever did.

Recent studies show it might not be as vestigial as we once thought, since it appears to have a function during the fetal and early human stages as a source of endocrine cells that produce hormones and other compounds that help with the immune system.

Its classification as a useless bit of our bodies dates back to Charles Darwin himself, who listed a number of body parts in his seminal work “The Decent of Man” that he considered “rudimentary” and an argument supporting his theory of evolution.

Whatever the appendix is for, we do know that we can live without it. And for some people who get stricken with appendicitis, we need to be without it if we want to keep living.

Ear wiggling

Source: Travis Isaacs / Flickr

Some people can wiggle their ears, some people can’t. We all have the muscles for it, or traces of them anyway, but we can’t call control them.

Ear wiggling is believed to be a genetic thing, which suggests that it’s either a new mutation that the species is trying on for size, or an old one we don’t need anymore. The fact that so many other animals do have much more defined muscles attached to their ears and a large amount of control over the movement of these muscles, which help with directional sound detection, suggests that it’s probably not new.

It’s commonly believed that around 10 to 20 percent of the population can do it, but there is some evidence to suggest that it’s something that can be learned. But then again, maybe it can only be learned by people who have the genes to do it in the first place.

Since it’s not something that really matters to modern day homo sapiens, nobody is rushing to toss a lot of research money at the question.