Evolution is a curious thing, developing new body parts to improve life under unique conditions. It also means that some body parts become obsolete overtime. For example, whales still have bones that hint at the fact that they were once four-legged land animals. It also means that overtime, they evolved to no longer have legs.
Humans are no different. We changed over millennia so that we walked entirely upright, freeing up our hands to carry tools, hold hands, and – in modern days – to text. Our bodies changed, the bones and organs taking on different orientations and functions as we shifted to walking just on two feet.
It also means that some of the body parts that once had a very clear purpose lost that purpose. There are actually a number of body parts that you probably have that you don’t actually seem to need. Or they pose a greater risk than benefit.
With the way our bodies keep changing, it is very likely that some of these largely obsolete or risky parts will eventually just go away.
1. Body Hair
The hair on our heads has a purpose, especially our eyebrows, which are part of the substantial network to protect the eyes. Hair in pretty much every other place in the body doesn’t have much of a purpose. In some cases, it can actually cause problems.
There is already evidence that humans have been reducing body hair, so it is likely that this will simply be a continuing trend. This probably comes as great news since there is a general trend to remove hair by many means, some of which are very painful methods.
2. Arrector Pili
You’ll know these as the parts of the skin that make goose bumps. They are a fantastic way of describing a particularly harrowing feeling, because people know exactly what you mean when you say something that gives you goosebumps.
These used to have a functional purpose as well. As we have increasingly less body hair though, they don’t have the same meaning anymore.
Consider when a dog or a cat gets their hackles up. Our goosebumps serve a similar purpose, but it is much harder to see in humans without being up close. And if most of our body hair disappears, this will disappear too. After all, if the hair disappears, the parts that create the goosebumps will disappear too. It’s harder to think of them as being similar since it is very difficult to see the hairs standing up when the hair is so sparse and small.
Though a useful descriptor, there is increasingly less practical use for them.
3. The Appendix
This one probably doesn’t come as a surprise since it is one of the most commonly removed body parts. It is only recently that researchers thought they figured out the purpose of this particular organ, finding that it could house our bodies’ helpful bacteria.
Even if this is the case, the appendix poses a significant risk because it is more likely to cause problems. It can rupture and cause death if the person isn’t operated on quickly after the rupture.
Appendices are necessary for animals that generally eat plants, but since people have gravitated toward a more meat oriented diet, the appendix doesn’t serve the same purpose as in other animals. It also isn’t an obvious part of our digestive system.
4. The Palmaris Longus Muscle
This is the muscle that runs from the wrist to the elbow. You can see them when you rest your hand on a surface palm up and touch your pinky and thumb together. The band of muscles that pop up leading from your wrist are the palmaris longus muscles.
The reason why it is thought this will eventually disappear is that 10% of the population already doesn’t have it. Professionals think that these helped people have strong grips in the forests. Today, the way we grip items isn’t affected as much by having this muscle, which is why it has already started disappearing from a large percentage of the population.
5. The Coccyx
You probably know this more as your tailbone, which really says everything you need to know about why this is likely to disappear. All of us have a tail when we are embryos, but by the time we are born, the tail completely goes away, leaving just the tailbone hinting at the lost appendage.
Tails improve balance and mobility, something that humans didn’t need as much when they started walking upright. As our posture shifted, the tail became obsolete, and overtime, this last little remnant will also likely disappear.
How long this will take is unsure though. There are still people born with very short tails, so it could be a long time before the bone is entirely gone.
6. Pyramidalis Muscles
Moving around to the front of the body, you have pyramidalis muscles. These are right below your lower abdomen, creating a triangular shape. This is another muscle that has already started disappearing, and not everyone has them. It is estimated that about 20% of people don’t have these muscles.
You have a lot of useful abdominal muscles, but these aren’t part of that. As far as professionals can tell, they don’t do anything – you don’t use them when you contract your stomach muscles.
7. Wisdom Teeth
If you had to undergo the surgery to your wisdom teeth, you are likely disappointed to hear that people of the future will be lucky enough not to have to deal with this. Or maybe you are happy for future generations.
The reason you had to have your wisdom teeth pulled is the reason why these will likely eventually stop forming in our mouths. Since we make most of our own food, we don’t require the incredibly powerful jaws that we once had. Consider how soft your food is, and it becomes clear that a strong jaw isn’t essential.
Since our diets have changed, so have our jaws, shrinking in size. That’s why people keep having their wisdom teeth pulled – there simply isn’t the room necessary to fit these teeth anymore.
8. Paranasal Sinuses
For allergy sufferers, this one would be a blessing if it were to disappear today. Whenever you get stuffed up, this is where the problem happens. And when you get a sinus headache, it doesn’t help to know that these cavities full of mucus and pain don’t actually serve any real purpose anymore.
Professionals have tried to figure out just what purpose these cavities serve. It is hypothesized that they prevent bone from growing in this space and causing extra weight. Apart from making your head lighter, there is no obvious reason to have them.
Undoubtedly, many of us wish this one would just disappear tomorrow, saving us the problems caused by allergies and stuffy noses, particularly those painful sinus headaches. Unfortunately, we have to just wait and keep suffering until they eventually leave on their own. Unlike the appendix and wisdom teeth, there is no easy solution for dealing with them. Until evolution fixes this strange part of our bodies, we’ll just have to keep suffering.
9. Extrinsic Ear Muscles
There are actually a couple of things about the ears that are likely to disappear, so this is the first one we’ll cover.
Some people have extrinsic ear muscles that allow them to move their ears. It’s a neat party trick, but apart from that, we really don’t need to be able to move our ears independently.
When people were still far less evolved, being able to move our ears allowed us to hear better when hunting or being hunted. It was similar to how dogs and cats can move their ears, but obviously far less obviously or adeptly. Today, this simply isn’t necessary.
10. Darwin’s Tubercle
Moving to the tip of the ear, notice the small fold along the outer area of your ear. Can you feel that it comes to a point? That’s the Darwin’s Tubercle, and it’s more than likely going to keep shrinking until it disappears. It’s already not present in a lot of people – and you may be one of them.
It isn’t known what purpose it served, making it a very likely candidate to disappear.
11. The Third Eyelid
The fact that you probably haven’t heard of this is a good indicator of how this part of the eye isn’t exactly useful. Present in most mammals, the third eyelid is another protective mechanism and helps to keep the eyes clean.
We have this too, but it isn’t as essential to us, perhaps because we aren’t so low to the ground. This could make it one of the parts that will disappear over time.
12. The Neck Rib and Subclavius Muscle
We have a lot of ribs, and when we walked lower to the ground using our hands, we needed the neck rib to help us move. Like the whale though, this is no longer necessary. Even more surprising, it is already gone in most of the human population – it is thought that less than 1% of people still have the neck rib.
The subclavius muscles are similar – when we had to use our arms to walk, these muscles were used constantly. Today, they don’t really serve any purpose
13. Finally – Toes
This one is saved for last since it is one that will be the most obvious if it happens, and is likely to take a long time to disappear. You probably know that they help us balance while we walk, but our balance has shifted further back on our feet.
When we walked lower to the ground, our toes were absolutely essential for helping to keep balance. Now that we have been walking upright for a long time, that balance has shifted. Researchers have found that we now balance closer to our big toes.
It’s absolutely possible that our feet will look more like clubs than what we think of as feet. It’s definitely hard to imagine, but it would be nice to have fewer bones to break. And the idea of not having toes to stub gives this particular evolution a certain type of appeal – even if the end results seem a bit odd. And don’t worry, fingers are not going to suffer the same fate, not with as much as we rely on them for everything.