Useless Organs like Your Appendix and Gallbladder
I was pondering my useless organs the other day. I was thinking about the digestive system and how many people do not know how it works. I’ve learned we need to chew our food a lot more than we do – almost until its mush….gross! That’s because there are more enzymes in your mouth to break down food than in your stomach or intestines. Chunks of food in the stomach mean your stomach has to work a lot harder than it should…hence the reason some people get the shits and have a lot of abdominal pain. I read this interesting article once where a couple were researching the way people eat and they observed them in cafes, restaurants, wherever. The most bizarre sight was a thin little man who packed away a Big Mac in 3 bites. No doubt that little man is eating through a colostomy bag today.
I was under the uninformed impression that there were only 2 useless organs, being the aforementioned. However this entertaining article has identified 5:
Male Nipples: This one might surprise you. Men have nipples because early on in the womb, the gender of a fetus could go either way. Every fetus starts out female and androgens play an important role in “making” the fetus male. Actually I knew this one. No, really.
The Appendix: This small pouch no longer aids in digestion, and none of the 1 in 20 people who have one removed seems to miss it. In plant-eating vertebrates, it remains part of the digestive system. However as of late, scientists believe that the appendix is not a vestigial (useless). It may serve as a safe house where good bacteria lies in wait until needed to repopulate the gut after a nasty case of diarrhea. Even cooler still is that appendicitis is not due to a faulty appendix, but rather to cultural changes associated with industrialized society and improved sanitation. Improved sanitation confused me at first but I suppose if the appendix stores bacteria that isn’t needed any longer, it is expelled from the body. Who knew?
Tailbone – mine is rather prominent and when I am doing crunches on the floor it grinds into it and creates considerable anguish (a great excuse to avoid exercise). At one time our ancestors had tails for balance but when they stood upright, tails weren’t necessary anymore. Eesh. In rare cases congenital defect results in a short tail-like structure present at birth today. This is known as coccygeal retroposition. Twenty-three cases of human babies born with such a structure have been reported in the medical literature since 1884. There are no adverse health effects of such a tail, unless perhaps the child was born in the Dark Ages. In that case, the child and the mother, now considered witches, would’ve been killed instantly, although possibly not in Japan. A Japanese inventor created a mechanical tail that humans wear to indicate happiness. Seriously. He is making a kit to sell in the states. I can hardly wait.
Wisdom Teeth: Little more than a pain in the mouth for many people, wisdom teeth once served a function, but the human jaw became smaller and wisdom teeth have nowhere to grow. Not so wise, it would seem. Dental hygiene is partly to blame. Before tooth brushing, a young adult would have lost many or most of the teeth, and the incoming wisdom teeth would have been timely. Wow. What a great alternative. I’ll keep brushing my teeth, thanks.
Erector Pili and Body Hair: Goose bumps aren’t just to alert you of cold; in many creatures, fear and confrontation cause muscle fibers to activate, forcing hairs to stand up and making the animal appear larger and more threatening. That has been useful to your ancestors, but they don’t do much for us now.
Gallbladder – That was my call and I was very wrong on this one. The gallbladder aids in the digestion of fatty foods. However, I am half right: people who have their galls (stop that, you) removed function normally without it. So there.
Brain – So many people function quite well without one. Enough said.
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