Friday, August 21, 2009

Appendix Not Vestigial?

Charles Darwin famously stated that the appendix, that irritating organ that, often, goes bad and has to be removed was a "remnant" of a past evolutionary life. Not so fast, say researchers at Duke, University of Arizona and Arizona State. As Australian Newsnet reports:
"Maybe it's time to correct the textbooks. Many biology texts today still refer to the appendix as a 'vestigial organ'," says Dr. William Parker, assistant professor of Surgical Sciences at Duke.

He revealed that his research team used a modern approach to evolutionary biology called cladistics, which utilizes genetic information in combination with a variety of other data to evaluate biological relationships that emerge over the ages, for their study.

He said that his study has shown that the appendix has evolved at least twice, once among Australian marsupials and another time among rats, lemmings and other rodents, selected primates and humans.

"We also figure that the appendix has been around for at least 80 million years, much longer than we would estimate if Darwin's ideas about the appendix were correct," he said.
Regarding Australasia, as Kenneth Miller has pointed out, the fact that the forms that show up so closely mimic those of placentals ought to suggest strongly that evolution does not proceed at random.


  1. Anonymous3:52 PM

    New research indicates that the human appendix is utilized by the colon to replenish favorable bacteria within.

  2. That's what I love about ongoing research. You never quite know what you are going to find out. One of my favorite quotes is from Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not Eureka! (I found it!) but rather, "hmm.... that's funny...."