The human body is a finely tuned machine—or so it would seem. While most of our organs perform important functions that are essential for life, we’ve held onto some body parts that are now obsolete. Some of the body parts that you don’t exactly need came in handy for our ancestors and are still integral for other animals, but we can definitely do without them today. Still, most of these remain intact to avoid unnecessary surgery for body parts that aren’t hurting anyone. Here’s a closer look at some of the removable parts you won’t miss – as well as some others that you’ll always have and seldom use.
Your tailbone, or coccyx to put it formally, is—admittedly—part of the spine that you wouldn’t want to be missing. However, this structure of fused vertebrae at the base of the spine is actually what’s left of human tails. In fact, some people are still born with tails, which are typically removed shortly after birth. What you may not know is that all humans actually briefly have tails in the womb; most of us just lose them well before we’re born.
Opposite sex organs
Male nipples don’t serve much of a purpose (unless you’re a big fan of body piercings), but they stick around because all fetuses start out as female. Women have their own answer to male nipples: female vas deferens, which are sperm ducts tucked away near the ovaries. The ducts wind up as dead-end tubes, and most women don’t even know they have them.
Wisdom teeth are more familiar to people, because most of us have had them removed. Only about 5% of people have the room to grow in wisdom teeth, so this final set of molars has to be removed before they erupt—typically around the ages of 18-21.
Tonsillectomies used to be commonplace procedures for any kid who frequently became ill with throat infections, but now this surgery is not such an immediate answer to childhood illness. While it’s true that tonsils don’t do much for us, they also don’t need to be removed to resolve upper respiratory infections. Tonsillectomies are still considered when children are suffering from sleep-related breathing disorders like snoring and sleep apnea.
The appendix is a tricky organ, because it has long held a reputation for being useless. When it becomes inflamed due to appendicitis, it needs to be removed right away, and patients typically make a full recovery after the surgery. However, it is now thought that the appendix might have more of a purpose in immune health, because it can store beneficial bacteria in the gut, which are replenished after a gastrointestinal bug passes.
A few other body parts that you probably aren’t using include spare ribs, pinky toes, and arrectores pilorum, or the muscles that cause us to get goose bumps (but used to help early apes ward off predators!) For more facts you might not know about the human body, keep reading the MeMD blog and ask your own strange body questions in the comments below.