I keep coming across an interesting term: vestigial. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s not a word that normally comes up in conversation, (though a musician whose work I appreciate, Joe Baughman, has a cool song I like to listen to called Vestigial Soul).
But lately I keep running into it.
What does vestigial mean? Here’s one definition: “(of an organ or part of the body) degenerate, rudimentary, or atrophied, having become functionless in the course of evolution.”
It turns out you and I have vestigial parts in our bodies that are understood by scientists to be throwbacks to our earlier ancestors; things like wisdom teeth, a coccyx, and an appendix.
Many of these structures were important for survival because they related to things like the processing of food or fending off predators. But they no longer serve a crucial purpose for us, though they can sometimes still have a reduced role of some kind. And yet we still have them. They remain as relics of an earlier age.
So we can look to parts of our own bodies for evidence of evolution. This short video from Scishow.com [embedded below] gives a great overview of these vestigial structures (and you can find tons more educational science videos there too).
Vestigial structures, on their own, don’t prove that evolution is true. But, as the video says, they are much easier to explain inside an evolutionary framework than outside of it. Evolution is such a powerful theory because it explains the evidence we see in the biological world in better and simpler terms than any other scientific theory. And vestigial features are only one small example of this evidence.
Share this video with someone today as a reminder that the evidence for evolution is closer than you think.