Ok men, I would like to take you aside for a second and ask you a very indiscreet question if that’s ok. I suppose I’d have to ask myself the same one and it’s not something I really like talking about, but here goes. Why do we have nipples?
Our breasts serve no purpose, other than, I suppose, developing them into pecs to attract the opposite sex, who do have useful mammary glands, and believe me we worship you for them. But really our nipples are just unsightly, meaningless bumps. They are remnants of what we men all used to be; women. Yup, you heard me, in embryonic development everyone starts out as a girl. Then as the fetus develops the chromosomes and DNA make a determination which sex will emerge. At that point, however, the nipples have already appeared and nature is not an Indian giver so, we are stuck with them whether we like it or not. Frankly, I think we’d look pretty silly without them.
Now ladies, be nice, because believe it or not, your clitoris is a biological remnant of a penis. Once everything gets sorted out we are born as we are. It does give one pause, however, and I think it explains much about how genders can be more than just two. We all have vestiges of body parts we do not need or use.
While we are talking to the ladies, I did want to mention that the Hymen is also a vestigial membrane. No one really knows what it’s there for. Perhaps at one point in our human, or animal history it was useful for protecting the reproduction system from infection. Many mammals have a hymen and in some cases it is designed to help keep the semen in the vagina to fertilize the egg.
Ok, so enough with the unmentionables. What else do we take for granted that, in essence, are unneeded remnants of our past? Did you say goose bumps?
Long ago when we had a lot of hair all over our bodies the hair follicles would protrude under stress. The goose bumps would raise the hairs on our bodies in order to make us look bigger and more intimidating to predators. If you’ve ever seen a cat or a dog when threatened and the hairs stand up on their backs? Goose bumps. Another benefit to hairy beasts is that goose bumps allow more air to be trapped between the skin and the hairs, keeping them warmer. For us humans not so much, we have wool cardigans and fleece ski jackets for warmth and we are the predator, N’est-ce pas?
The list of vestigial anomalies in humans is pretty long, there are muscles that we no longer need, even molecules and genes. But I will leave you with a vestigial trait that we have all had to deal with in our lives….. hiccups. What the heck are those about?
Identified as repetitive, uncontrolled contractions of the diaphragm, they are annoying, sometimes embarrassing and unpleasant. You can thank our amphibian ancestors, gulping air to increase their CO2 intake and in infants to help the development of the lungs. I don’t know about you, but my lungs are developed just fine now so enough with the hiccups already.
Ah well. I guess we will always have Vestiges of our past. What I really wish we had were gills, gills would be cool.