Study Finds the Appendix Has Evolved More Than
30 Times in Various Species and Could Play Useful Role in the Body
once suspected of serving no purpose in the body, has evolved numerous
times over the centuries in various species, a new study has found
providing some of the strongest evidence to date that the
organ might have a function.
In a new study
published this month, an international team of researchers found
that, across 50 species, the appendix evolved independently anywhere
from 32 to 38 times.
In most cases
the organ's transformation was not due to a change in the animals'
Huffington Post reported.
challenge the notion, first put forward by Charles Darwin, that
the appendix is an outdated organ that, long ago, had a purpose
when apes and human beings dined mostly on leaves. That diet, the
theory went, required our anatomy to have a large cecum, from which
the appendix protrudes, in order to digest plant matter.
the foods we ate became easier to break down, the cecum became less
crucial and, through the years, shriveled up, Darwin hypothesized.
But this new
study threw that concept into question, finding the appendix has
undergone evolutionary change in the absence of dietary shifts.
are questioning the number of times the appendix actually evolved,
noting that some species were included in the study even though
it's unclear whether they even have an appendix.
If the questionable
species are removed from the equation, that could mean the organ
only evolved 18 times.
the study hints that the appendix could be useful, and the results
are spurring scientists to wonder what its function could be.
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