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Scientists Now Say The Appendix Isn't Useless

Today, I'm feeling grateful my appendix hasn't been taken out.

If you're one of those unlucky people who's now living life without an appendix, I feel bad for you.

You've had to deal with chronic stomach pain, invasive surgery and a long, boring recovery process - all for an organ everyone assumed was pretty much useless.

UNTIL NOW, THAT IS.

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Yes, now there's another reason to feel bad for your poor friend who had to have their appendix removed -- it turns out it might actually have a use, after all.

A team of researchers from Midwestern University in Illinois have studied the evolution of the appendix over time, and it's actually pretty interesting stuff.

The organ has disappeared from some mammals during evolution, but, in many cases, it's also appeared in mammals.

What this means, according to the researchers behind the study, is that it must have a use -- because mammals are evolving to have one.

The only problem is we still don't know what exactly that purpose is.

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The researchers state,

The appendix has evolved minimally 32 times, but was lost fewer than seven times, indicating that it either has a positive fitness value or is closely associated with another character that does. These results, together with immunological and medical evidence, refute some of Darwin's hypotheses and suggest that the appendix is adaptive but has not evolved as a response to any particular dietary or social factor evaluated here.

Or, in a much simpler explanation, they said,

If it were selectively neutral, losses should be about as common as gain.
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As a result, they concluded they can “confidently reject” the widely believed theory that humans have evolved past the point of needing an appendix.

Though it's likely it has something to do with our fitness, we're still not sure what it does. Still, that doesn't mean it's unimportant. Sorry, people without appendixes!

Citations: Multiple independent appearances of the cecal appendix in mammalian evolution and an investigation of related ecological and anatomical factors (Science Direct)