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Vestigial Organs

February 8, 2007

Believe it or not, our bodies have parts that don’t have any use.


Useless organs. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Recently we answered a question about the appendix, a vestigial organ left over from an earlier time in our evolution. Now Listener Bob Gilden of Alameda, California, writes to ask whether we have any other vestigial traits. We turned again to American University biologist Dan Fong.

DANIEL FONG (American University):
Another example of a vestigial organ in humans is the tailbone; we no longer have a tail, of course. Another good example would be the goosebump reaction, for erecting the hair. We no longer have body hair for that function, but we still try to erect it when in the appropriate environment.

He says some also add wisdom teeth to that list. Like the appendix, they were probably more useful when our ancestors ate a plant-based diet.

If you have a science question, call us at 1-800-why-isit. If we use it on the air, you’ll win a Science Update mug. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.