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Heather Scoville

Appendix May Not Be Vestigial After All

By April 14, 2011

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Vestigial structures are compelling evidence for evolution. The appendix is usually the first structure we think of that has no function in humans. But is the appendix really vestigial? A research team at Duke University says the appendix just might do something besides get infected.

Even Charles Darwin said the appendix is vestigial in humans. He claimed it was leftover from when the cecum was its own separate digestive organ. The current studies show many more animals than previously thought have both a cecum and an appendix. This may mean the appendix isn't so useless after all. So what does it do?

It could be a sort of hiding place for your "good" bacteria when your digestive system is out of whack. They move out of the intestines and into the appendix so the immune system does not attack them while trying to get rid of the infection. Researchers are still unsure about the appendix's original function. It's common for once vestigial structures to pick up a new function as species evolve.

Don't worry if you don't have an appendix, though. It still has no other known purpose and humans seem to do just fine without one if it's been removed. Do you buy into this study, or do you think the appendix is still vestigial? What other vestigial structures do you think will evolve to have a new purpose? Leave your thoughts in the comments!


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