Will we ever evolve out of our useless appendages? © iStock

Will we ever evolve out of our useless appendages?

The more we learn about the human body, the more we find that our so-called "useless" appendages do serve a useful purpose.

Asked by: Anonymous


Which appendages are those? As a general rule, humans don’t have any vestigial limbs or sightless eyes or tails dragging along the ground. Every part of a normal healthy body serves some useful function. Our toes help us balance, our tonsils help fight infection, our appendix acts as a reservoir of gut bacteria to recolonise the intestine after an infection.

The 1971 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica claimed humans have more than 100 vestigial organs, but the more we learn, the more we find that they’re doing something useful. But even if it turns out that our wisdom teeth, say, really are useless, evolution doesn’t have much of a say anymore. Modern dentistry is much more convenient. In a thousand years perhaps, when civilisation is a smoking ruin, impacted wisdom teeth will become a life-threatening condition again and natural selection can resume its patient work of eradicating them.


Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.