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Former good article Vestigiality was one of the Natural sciences good articles, but it has been removed from the list. There are suggestions below for improving the article to meet the good article criteria. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
Article milestones
Date Process Result
June 20, 2006 Peer review Reviewed
May 26, 2007 Good article reassessment Delisted
Current status: Delisted good article
Please note that vestigial structures need not be useless. Vestigial structures are anatomical structures .. which are considered to have lost much or all of their original function through evolution.
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edit·history·watch·refresh Stock post message.svg To-do list for Vestigiality:
  • Find a more logical definition. The present definition is, at best, illogical since almost any structure in organ-system level organisms show different functions as evolution progresses. Photoreceptors developing into advanced eyes is a well researched example, as are nematocysts and bacterial flagella.
  • Find a source or sources for the definition given, if there is a consistent definition for this phenomenon
  • Focus more on vestigiality as a whole rather than structures only - behavioral and physiological characters that are vestigial need to be given proper attention.
  • Go into more detail in examples given (fewer, more detailed examples are better than a large list of brief example)
  • Add more non-human vestigial structures to its section. Non-animal examples (plants and (microbes?)) are needed.
  • Discuss the concept of vestigial organs from a creationist point of view. (Origin of Species has a good refutation of the creationist explanation).
  • Use of the term for structures that were previously used by the organism but which have lost their use at later stages (e.g. mandibles in most lepidopterans). Also parts in one sex that are not used but used in the other sex. These are quite a different phenomenon.
  • Include a creationist point of view to the narrative. Only teaching the evolutionary religion is a one sided science. Both common theories should be addressed.

/Archive 01 - 18:48, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

/Archive 02 - 18:48, 16 June 2006 (UTC)

GA proceedings[edit]

Good Article nomination has failed[edit]

The Good article nomination for Vestigiality has failed, for the following reason(s):

Good content, but the bullet-pointed list of examples should be converted to normal prose. Worldtraveller 10:00, 14 June 2006 (UTC)
I have to say that i think the list format was far superior to the prose. To call it a list is probably incorrect, rather subtitled paragraphs. In the 'list' format the content is clear as the eye scans the page. This is not the case for the prose. My gut instinct would be to keep the bullets despite the failure at the good article nomination page. David D. (Talk) 02:59, 16 June 2006 (UTC)
Actually, I agree with you in this case which is why I brought it over to Wikipedia:Good articles/Disputes where I was told that having it in lists was actually acceptable. I actually left a message on Silence's page to see what he thought before I went ahead and reverted it.--SomeStranger(t|c) 09:59, 16 June 2006 (UTC)
  • I can see two reasons to remove the bulleted list for the "human vestiges" section. (1) Each entry in the bulleted list is a full paragraph long, making it already "prose-ish" in girth. (2) There are only four entries on the list, now that the vestigial reflexes and so on have been delistified. I could see an argument for a list if there were, say, 10 items on the list, or if each entry on the list was only a line or two long, but the current format doesn't really seem like an effective or standard use of listing. How about we enlarge the "non-human" vestiges listing (I'd say we should have 15 at the minimum), and use a list for that, once it's long enough? -Silence 20:50, 20 June 2006 (UTC)
    • Okay, I see your point, let's go ahead and revert it to the version you created where they were in pure prose. I will set to work on the non-human structures again later. That one source I found has a list of about 50. :)--SomeStranger(t) 21:55, 20 June 2006 (UTC)

GA passed[edit]

I see no problem with the bullet list; this is GA, not FAC. Great content, fully cited, licensed photos... we have a winner. Kafziel 16:55, 20 June 2006 (UTC)

Delisted 26 May 2007[edit]

I've delisted the article for the following reasons:

  • It isn't stable - there are several items on the to do list, and it has recently been moved to a new location. The article most importantly needs to reflect this change by focusing less on the 'structure' on more on the concept - vestigiality can be seen in behavior, metabolic pathways, organs etc. Underlying this are genes that are no longer so useful for their hosts. Whether the new name is where the article shall permanently reside also needs to be discussed.
  • More citations are needed, in particular the human appendix example.
  • It could still be better written. The examples section needs to go into more depth on some specific examples, not just list a bunch with one line sentences. A few detailed examples including structures, behaviors and cellular and biochemical vestigiality are needed.
  • See the to-do list for other details. Richard001 05:18, 26 May 2007 (UTC)

wrong information[edit]

the whales pelvis are really bones which have anchor points to muscles that whales use during sex and giving birth they need them becasue they are large animals the human appendix has a funtion and is part of your immune system and humans need thier tail bone for walking with more ease and has nerves going out of it

Please read the article. It records exactly what this article is about, with appropriate references. This is not the place to discuss things in general, only the improvement of the article. The article records the published views of people. Please go to somewhere else, such as, if you wish to discuss these topics. Skittle 10:32, 13 August 2006 (UTC)
What he said was a fact, and this vestigial whale non-sense is a lie. Is he being sent away for critiquing and trying to improve the article, or because he is exposing a lie in evolution? Most if not all of this article should be removed, and as per the articles I linked to have been proven false many years ago. Why is this considered a good article?
A whale of a tale?
Your appendix ... it’s there for a reason
Embryonic development (tail bone)
-- 01:05, 20 November 2006 (UTC)
If you had read the article, as I suggested the editor do, you would see that what he said is completely irrelevant to what this article is about. In particular, pay attention to the meaning of the word 'vestigial' in this article. Those AiG links really are laughable, and do not prove anything. Nor do they provide reputable sources that could be investigated. The other poster was not 'sent away', I said "if you wish to discuss these topics" and provided an appropriate place for such discussions. This is not the place to tell us evolution is a lie perpetrated by evil atheists worshipping Darwin, as AiG tries to :-) Skittle 02:09, 21 November 2006 (UTC)
Then tell me why several living whales with developed hind limbs (including femora, tibiae and fibulae, and in some cases with digits) have been discovered ([1]). Even Carl Wieland, the CEO of Answers in Genesis, has admitted that this is a serious challenge to young earth creation models. Thefamouseccles 00:53, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
FYI, vestigial organs don't have to be useless to be evidence for evolution. For example, the tailbone is an attachment for many things. But it's still the remnant of a tail. As such, it is a vestigial organ. However, if a vestigial organ IS useless, then it's EXTRA evidence for evolution. For example the Amphiuma. IT has tiny, tiny, absolutely tiny legs compared to its body. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Elecbullet (talkcontribs) 07:22, 5 May 2009 (UTC)

Its not a lie. The article just needs rewritten to state that they were developing leg bones and are now used for the reproductive system. Rather than saying they're entirely useless. —Preceding unsigned comment added by HabeoPhaIemMaximum (talkcontribs) 16:35, 5 November 2009 (UTC)

If you have a reliable source about the use in the reproductive system it can be added. Deleting factual information, however, is not acceptable. Auntie E. 18:19, 5 November 2009 (UTC)

It is erroneous to cite the appendix as a vestigial organ when we now know that it serves a biological function (i.e. a reservoir for beneficial bacteria). The article first cites it as a vestigial organ, then equivocates, suggesting the appendix might have a purpose after all. That’s a poor example of a vestigial organ. Worse yet, earlier the article clearly states that: “care must be taken not to apply the label of vestigiality to exaptation, in which a structure originally used for one purpose is modified for a new one.” The reader is left with the impression that “the author” has failed to take his own advice. The section should be rewritten to say that while the appendix is often cited as a vestigial organ, it is in fact an example of exaptation. (The reference to the appendix shouldn’t be removed because it is bound to be reintroduced at a latter time by someone else who is under the common misconception that it is a vestigial organ.) – Rainy Day (talk) 22:44, 28 February 2010 (UTC)

According to new research on 'blind' mole rats (, their eyes are functional and do not provide a good example of vestigiality. Someone please correct this erroneous and outdated reference to blind mole rats. They may have poorly functioning eyes, but these eyes have now been shown to be used by the mole rats. Please check the latest research (rather than just highly outdated books written in the 1800's) before posting things on Wikipedia. Thanks. – MathMan141 (talk) 18:31, 28 October 2011 (UTC)

Have these errors in the article been revised? (talk) 22:39, 24 April 2012 (UTC)
Seems nobody is interested in removing the false information. I would myself, but I think it serves as a testament to the faulty reasoning that scientists are parroting as evidence to support macro-evolution. If this case is wrong, what else might be? Is it really scientific in the first place to go around labeling organs "functionless" just because its function is not readily apparent? Yes, interesting "science" indeed. (talk) 22:01, 28 April 2012 (UTC)
Nobody is interested in responding to your post as it is the product of ignorance and self-delusion. What you are engaged in, which FYI, is at the heart of the vast majority of opinions bandied about by the 'eruditionally' challenged, ID set, is called a straw man fallacy. In a straw man, the interlocutor guilty of said fallacy is either unable to or unwilling to posit a sound, correct argument with which to refute that of his or her opponent, so he misrepresents or mischaracterizes his opponents argument and attacks that instead. Let me explain how you did that. You have a problem with vestigiality because it undermines the central tenets of The One Truth with which you are certain that you are in possession of. As such, rather than offer a refutation of vestigiality as clearly defined in the article, you conveniently redefine it and attack your new definition (you have erected a straw man). To summarize, your argument is as follows:
* Vestigiality maintains that certain organs are considered vestigial when they are shown to no longer have any function.
* Studies on the eyes of blind rats show that their eyes still have function, i.e., they can "see" light, and its absence)
** Therefore, vestigiality is false
The problem here, good friend, is that vestigiality does not require the organ to be "functionless" as you claim (your 'straw man'). If you had even bothered to read the first sentence of the article, you would have noted that the chief requirement for vestigiality is that the organ has lost all or virtually all of its original, ancestral function. This is, in fact, the case with the blind mole rat. You see, the current organ which said rat is in possession of is much too complex an organ for just detecting light and its absence. The eye of this interesting little fellow in fact still retains all of its macular structures, such as the fovea, perifovea and foveola, all of which are only used in constructing very sharp images. These structures are, however, obviously no longer serving their original, ancestral function, either singularly, or as a part of any optical nerve system, and as such, the eye present in the blind mole rat is very much a vestigial organ and yet, still serving a function (albeit, one of massive overkill given its present level of development).
Just to conclude with a short anecdote, when I was in graduate school, several fellow students who happened to be Americans, were relating to me the very strong presence of folks engaged in practices of superstition and mysticism in their country. They were not only referring to the sheer volume and magnitude of such belief, but also to the degree of influence and control with which those who engaged in such practices had in everyday American life. At first I was sceptical and thought they were pulling my leg, but then the internet came along, and your gang were very quickly able to introduce yourselves to the world. You see, I do not mean to imply that America has some sort of monopoly on ignorance - we have plenty of uneducated types in my country as well. The difference, however, is that the ignorant in my country mostly just content themselves with discussing their bodily excretions or the rims on their cars. It seems that those sorts in America have taken to the 'good book', and with a vengeance. As the 21st century dawns on us all, it is my sincere wish that we can finally put such superstitious twaddle to bed as our species begins to move out into the stars. So please, I implore you, please just put down the bible/quoran/whatever and discuss your farts instead. For everyone's sake. (talk) 01:06, 3 December 2015 (UTC)
Nice straw man making a false accusation of a straw man, but don't let the bias in their comment as a whole cause you to miss that there is a real, relevant, and non-biased request being made here. And he's right, there are lots of things that the media likes to call "vestigial" where there are outdated citations available to support that, but where the current state of the science says that was a false claim by people who just had no idea what the modern function of the organ is. The "blind" mole rat isn't blind, there is no need for you to engage in ad hominem attacks based on your disagreement with the supposed religion of the person saying that. As a Buddhist, the religious hatred being expressed is really disappointing, but as somebody who is scientifically minded it is even more offensive that you're ignoring the science being discussed in order to attack the views of the speaker. Just as I admitted my religion while discussing the science, so he can also do so. It doesn't mean whatever he says is wrong or biased. The appendix was presumed to be vestigial based on the fact that you can live without it and it isn't immediately obvious what function you lost. Over time they've found that it is exaptated. Presumably that consensus is still evolving and both views should be represented, but the current state of the field in 2015 is that the appendix is not vestigial. The human horripilation response (goose bumps) is another example that is frequently repeated in the media, but is actually rather controversial, and you don't need research to question the claims because the very claim in the first instance is that most humans lack the quantity of body hair to receive a noticeable insulating effect. However, the very claim makes clear that a minority of humans do indeed have enough body hair for horripilation to be insulating. Clearly the species has been evolving away from that trait being useful, but we're not there yet as a species. If people are still using it, it isn't vestigial. Also, there is a minority view that horripilation has exaptated into a social signalling function used in mating. The whale falsities were removed, leaving most of the article quite good with only the section on humans retaining substantial media-repeated nonsense. There is however still a picture of the whale tail diagram orphaned in the sidebar that could be removed, or even better, a section could be added for things formerly believed to be vestigial as that could be important to readers. (talk) 20:02, 4 December 2015 (UTC)
As my first language is not English, I do on occasion miss such things, but I believe that I am correct in assuming that your first statement is one of sarcasm. Now, with respect to your accusation that I was false in characterising the previous poster's argument as straw man, you are most certainly in err. The poster (mistakenly) defines vestigiality in an organ as a state or condition where an organ is no longer being used for any purpose, it is, according to him/her, "functionless". A quick perusal of the poster's own (talk) page does in fact further confirm this to be a fact where he very clearly states and restates his own mistaken interpretation of vestigiality. His definition is absolutely false, and as such, he is absolutely mischaracterising the opposing view.
As to your claims that I am expressing "religious hatred", that is absurd. Please refrain from such obvious hyperbole. If I were pressed to characterise my attitude and feelings towards the poster, I would be more inclined to use words such as dismissive or perhaps even pity. Yes, pity. With respect to the ad hominem, I a guilty. I will "take my knocks" on that as you Americans say.
Now, with respect to the points you made in your post... I strongly urge that you go back and very carefully read the original two posts which I replied to and correctly place them within the context of the thread. The poster to whom I refer,, was replying to the post regarding the blind mole rats made by user MathMan141. In that post, the author suggested that the eyes of the blind mole rat were not examples of vestigiality because they do in fact have a function. He then requested that they be removed as examples of vestigial organs. At this point, user, replied directly to this post asking about the status of the revision (a question to which he was already aware of the answer) and then followed it again with a reply to his reply, this time primarily to pontificate on his viewpoint and to call into question the integrity of scientists who accept evolution by way of natural selection and who feel that the earth is older than 6000 years (that is virtually all of us, excepting a couple of advocates of creationist pseudoscience). Including postdoc TF, I have spent 12 years studying chemistry and a further 11 working in research and statistical modelling (chemometrics) and I am quite frankly tired of having the integrity of my colleagues and my profession called into question by people such as this. You made a further point that his religion "doesn't mean whatever he says is wrong or biased". Are you being serious right now?!? These pseudoscience, creationist types use their religion as the basis for their science! They dismiss evolution by way of natural selection, not based upon any valid methodology or process, but in fact because it is contrary to their own dogmatic religious tenets. They begin with the notion that a supernatural being created the entire universe, including everything in it in 4004 BCE and they dismiss all science which disagrees with this central tenet as false and its proponents as people without any integrity. This is as blatant a confirmation bias as one will come across. All science based upon dogmatic belief is in fact biased, by definition. Regarding the other points you made, you were in fact responding to points made in earlier posts in the thread; the poster to whom I was replying for instance, user, never made any mention of the media, nor did the poster to whom he was replying, in the post regarding the mole rats. As I mentioned, this user only made reference to having the mole rats eyes removed as an example of vestigiality to which user questioned the status of this request and to which I made my reply. As such, they are not relevant to either my post or the posts made by user No harm, no foul as they say, these threads can be somewhat confusing at times.
I have never replied to any posts made by creationists before; I only came across this one while looking at something for my nephew and he was 'egging me on'. I intend to re-adopt this strategy as these sorts of arguments are utterly futile and pointless, and I am not even too clear on the ethics of engaging in arguments with those who embrace superstition and dogmatic belief and attempt to pass them off as a valid foundation for scientific methodology. To close, I am certainly no expert on the human appendix, but your statement, If people are still using it, it isn't vestigial is inaccurate, with respect to vestigiality in general. Being without present function is most certainly not a requirement for vestigiality. As I mentioned, loss of its original, ancestral function is the primary requirement for being vestigial. For the sake of argument, assume that someone discovers tomorrow that the human appendix was originally an organ which evolved so as to produce venom (let's pretend for sake of argument that we once had fangs as well). It clearly no longer serves in this function but does have other functions, so it is in fact vestigial. The reason vestigiality of any sort is threatening to fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, etc, is that it clearly makes a strong case for evolution by way of natural selection, it gravely threatens their young earth theory and it also calls into question the wisdom and perfection of their creator (if vestigiality of any sort exists, then our creator is a less than perfect being as he designed something which is no longer used/useful and how could jesus, allah, etc., make a mistake like that??? (talk) 00:40, 5 December 2015 (UTC)

Removed paragraph[edit]

"(It should be noted that his comment on nature not making rapid jumps is now considered out of date according Stephen Jay Gould's theory of punctuated equilibrium. However the majority of his argument still stands in modern evolutionary theory)"

I removed this for several reasons. Firstly, we've taken great care to cite as much as we can in this article, and this isn't fully cited, although that can easily be fixed. More importantly, it drops what I gather is still a disputed theory in as established, and I'm not sure it really belongs in this section. I'm not trying to get rid of the information, but I'm not sure it belongs here. Skittle 11:35, 24 September 2006 (UTC)

"Natura non facit saltus", as it is sometimes known, is well worth an article of its own; it was raised as an objection against quantum mechanics, for example. The German and Italian articles, by the looks of it, have a short article each on it, so I'd suggest just redlinking the relevant phrase.
I recently read a column on evolution in the economist which, while fairly unscientific, did portray this as an ongoing debate; I think it's been settled in physics, though.
RandomP 13:29, 24 September 2006 (UTC)
What if 'nature does not make rapid jumps' was piped to 'Natura non facit saltus'. If yuo know enough about this to make a stub, I'd be grateful, otherwise I'll look for somewhere else to send it. Skittle 13:37, 24 September 2006 (UTC)
I know enough about altavista to translate the German Wikipedia article, I suppose. No references that I can see, though.
Help would, of course, be appreciated.
RandomP 14:13, 24 September 2006 (UTC)

Vestigal Structure[edit]

The clitoris in females and the nipples of males are NOT vestigial, for male nipples never had the function of nursing young, and the clitoris never had the function of a penis. Instead, these are anatomical traits that are formed in an embyro before sexual differentiation occurs. The paragraphs refering to these as vestigial should be removed!!!

The information on this page is very inaccurate. I have taught anatomy at the college level including at the graduate level for over 20 years and not one text book that we have used, or I have reviewed, agree with the section on human anatomy in this article. I have tried to correct this article but my corrections were removed. I now inform students that I will not accept references to this web site on term papers. It seems that Darwinists have little concern for accuracy, but only indoctrination into their world view.

"I now inform students that I will not accept references to this web site on term papers" Good! They should be using this site as a starting point to direct them to other sources, which they should use as references. Your last comment makes it rather clear to me why your edits were removed... Skittle 21:21, 12 November 2006 (UTC)
"It seems that Darwinists have little concern for accuracy, but only indoctrination into their world view." -- With your position as a lecturer, I would haved assumed you would not come here to make sweeping generalization of "Darwinists". I guess I was wrong. Please come here to help correct mistakes, that's what a wiki is for, however I'm pretty sure we can do without these sort of attacks, although I understand you were "offended" by the mistakes being done here. Actually, I think a section here for "commonly mistaken or disputed organs" would be in place, because it's not only on Wikipedia I have encountered this claim. So you shouldn't just teach your students to steer clear of Wikipedia, but to always use multiple sources for verification. This applies to just about any scientific article. -- Northgrove 08:35, 12 March 2007 (UTC)
You should probably advised that "Darwinists" is usually a reference to people who follow outdated and disproven early forms of evolutionary theory. Modern evolutionary theory was inspired by Darwin, but a Darwinist is a living anachronism. The modern term of art is "Evolutionary Biologist" or similar. This is similar to how Freud is handled in psychology, though in that case "Freudian" means Jungian, or rather, it refers to later modifications of the theories. For clarification, please see: (talk) 20:24, 4 December 2015 (UTC)

Since I also teach A&P, I thought I would weigh in on this. It does not matter what one believes about human vestigial organs, but what the empirical research says. If students started their research with this web article on vestigial organs, and they did their homework, they would find that most everything in the section about humans is wrong. Then they would conclude that Wikipedia is a worthless resource. I should note that one study found that Wikipedia was more accurate then the Encyclopedia Britannica. In this case they are correct. The 2003 edition, volume 14 page 1082 claims that humans have “more than 100” vestigial organs which it defines as “organs that are useless, degenerate”! I would love to see a list of 100 vestigial organs. I checked my college A&P textbooks, and not one of the 15 I looked at listed a single structure as vestigial. All gave the proper use for each organ and structure that this article listed as vestigial. Evolutionists may claim that some are vestigial in humans, but I know of no anatomist that does. The scientific research is very clear on this topic. Do research on each of these claims and you will be surprised.

I believe you are confusing anatomical and evolutionary definitions of vestigial. From a biological point of view, a structure is vestigial if it has lost its original function; of course, it may have gained another (indeed, we would expect truly useless organs as you suggest to be lost to natural selection). To the earlier poster, I agree with Skittle: I am not certain why you would ever allow term papers to cite Wikipedia as a source; in general, encyclopedias are inappropriate references for such works, I believe. — Knowledge Seeker 22:46, 15 November 2006 (UTC)

I think the reason they are commonly identified as vestigial traits is exactly what you posted. Before sex is determined, all embryos have nipples. For this reason, the male nipples in particular are not vestigial. Instead, they should be identified as homologous. Bennett.829 (talk) 15:09, 1 October 2014 (UTC)bennett.829

Accuracy Disputed / NPOV[edit]

I am placing {{NPOV}} and {{disputed}} on this article. As per comments above, in the very least, the factual accuracy of vestigial structures is in question. The examples given, supposedly have been proven wrong years ago, and that needs to be investigated! Taking the possible errors into account, this article seems to assume they are fact. The sources given are heavily weighted on the evolutionary way of thinking. There needs to be a better balance, and the article shouldn't assume one position. -- 01:27, 20 November 2006 (UTC)

Let us please not turn this into another evolution vs creationist/intelligent design debate. All science is based on current evidence and is not written in stone, subject to change at any time. This article is not trying to impose some dogmatic world view, it is simply explaining what the current evidence suggests is true. If you are coming from the creationist school of thinking, you should most likely discount the entire idea of useless organs, as explained in the criticism section of this very article, making this a non-issue. 04:42, 20 November 2006 (UTC)
"The sources given are heavily weighted on the evolutionary way of thinking." Do you know any reputable, scientific sources that are not? If the examples given were "proven wrong years ago", please show us the sources for this so we can improve the article. Also, please be sure that you are using the same meaning of 'vestigial' that is used in this article, and by biologists. Skittle 17:28, 20 November 2006 (UTC)
Well you guys are obviously biased, because as implication goes from your comments, you are not going to accept any creationist sources as "reputable". But you could probably say the same of me, so we're even. I did give you the wrong source for the whale issue. Here's the right one [2] (scroll down to Vestigial legs?). Here's a quote...
...However, these so-called ‘remnants’ are not useless at all, but help strengthen the reproductive organs—the bones are different in males and females...
No, the article doesn't impose anything except for what the authors put there. I'd argue that current evidence shows that this article is incorrect. There's nothing wrong with that. Does it prove evolution is wrong? No, it just shows that these particular examples of vestigial organs do not hold up to scientific scrutiny, and therefore are not valid.
What am I advocating for this article? In the very least it needs additional information explaining the other views of these examples of "vestgial structure". And we need to take out statements that assume it's fact, and say that "this source thinks it's a fact". Is that too much to ask? It's not balanced as it is with most of the article being pro-vestigial, while only mentioning a criticism and not giving more detail on it. -- 02:53, 21 November 2006 (UTC)
Really, read the article. "these so-called ‘remnants’ are not useless at all" has nothing to do with the article, because as explained at length in the article, vestigial does not mean 'useless'. Also read the controversy section explaining that this has always been the case. With sources. Thank you. Skittle 14:45, 21 November 2006 (UTC)
i really don't think wikipedia could handle having to put "this source thinks it's a fact" on every disputed page...the fact that there are citations implies that it is the "belief" of a certain source anyway.Scholarus 21:21, 23 November 2006 (UTC)
The erroneous information in this article was pointed out 6 years ago, and it's still marching along as if it is fact? Whose running this place? (talk) 17:05, 24 April 2012 (UTC)

Some more references would be nice[edit]

As just one example, the article says, "The vermiform appendix is a vestige of the cecum."

Could we get proof for that, please? That it is homologous in shape, attachment, or position to the cecum has little bearing on whether it is related by DNA to the cecum. Until and unless someone can demonstrate that the DNA which codes for the cecum is related by X degree or in Y way to the DNA which codes for the appendix, statements like this are just wild speculation. That is, let's see some evidence that the DNA for the different organs is homologous and not just the structure.

Here's a reference to consider:

"... homologous structures need not be controlled by identical genes, and homology of phenotypes does not imply similarity of genotypes." - Gavin deBeer, formerly Professor of Embryology at the University of London and Director of the British Museum (Natural History), Homology, An Unsolved Problem (London: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 16

Evidence, please, evidence.

Erik Eckhardt 03:02, 12 March 2007 (UTC)

Do you forget where you are? Wikipedia favors consensus, not evidence. There are so many blatant unchecked theories (some proven incorrect) being pushed as fact here that it is getting beyond ridiculous. (talk) 22:42, 24 April 2012 (UTC)

Darwin's view[edit]

I've added this small paragraph to the history section:

Darwin however still often refers to the use and disuse of structures having some role in heredity, which mixes a form of Lamarckism with the theory of natural selection. In the final chapter of The Origin of Species he describes the process: "This has been effected chiefly through the natural selection of numerous successive, slight, favourable variations; aided in an important manner by the inherited effects of the use and disuse of parts".

Does this represent Darwin's view reasonably well? I'm not sure exactly what views he held regarding the inheritance of aquired traits, but he seems to believe to some extent in the conditions of an organisms life affecting its reproduction somehow, and in the quote above seems to imply that use and disuse of a structure will be inherited by the offspring. I'm not 100% sure on this interpretation, please feel free to remove it if you feel it isn't accurate. Richard001 08:04, 13 February 2007 (UTC)

I think you are misunderstanding Darwin's views here. Darwin never espoused any form of Lamarckism; his theory of natural selection, indeed, was in direct opposition to Lamarckism. Darwin certainly did believe that "the use and disuse of structure have some role in heredity", but this is not, in itself, Lamarckian. In Lamarckism, the use and disuse has a significant role on an individual level: if a specific organism doesn't use a limb, then that organism will pass this trait on to its descendent. In Darwinism, on the other hand, if a population doesn't use a limb for many generations, then the population's descendents are more likely to develop degenerate or re-adapted versions of that limb, and/or to develop more strong in their other limbs to account for this. In the former case, this change is the result of actually directly inheriting the change in an organism's characteristics over its lifetime; in the latter case, this change is the result of natural selection acting to promote the propagation of traits which are conducive to a population's fitness, in this case being traits that, in one way or another, "make up" for the costly disused limb. The effects of these two postulated processes might be similar in some cases, which seems to be where your confusion arises (as you mistakenly say that the "use and disuse of structures having some role in heredity" is itself Lamarckian), but the actual way this change occurs is what tells the two apart. The conditions of an argument's life do affect its reproduction: if they didn't, then evolution by natural selection would be just as impossible as Lamarckian evolution! Although Darwin's view on the hereditary mechanism, pangenesis, was eventually falsified, that view has little in common with Lamarckism: his hypothesis was that discrete units of heredity (cf. genes) called gemmules were shed by cells in the body to gather in the reproductive organs. -Silence 11:36, 13 February 2007 (UTC)
So what you're saying is Darwin didn't propose any inheritance of acquired characters at all? It was my understanding that this was what he meant when he kept referring to use and disuse. As I understand you are simply suggesting by use and disuse he meant that organisms who didn't use their characters effectively would simply disappear over very long periods of time due to the energy expenditure of maintaining them (and perhaps other factors such as cancer developing in an organ for example) lowering their reproductive success. He does mention this side of it, but only in passing.
Surely the quote above (bolded) shows he believes this - it's added as a separate factor besides natural selection, and specifically says the effects of use and disuse are inherited. I don't know, perhaps I misinterpreted it, though he certainly seemed to portray a semi-Lamarckian system of inheritance to me. Richard001 10:21, 23 May 2007 (UTC)
Coming back to this after reading the introduction of Descent of Man and skimming through Origin again, I found this quote: On these same principles, and bearing in mind that when organs are reduced in size, either from disuse or through natural selection. Surely what you're suggesting would conflict with the or in that sentence. Richard001 06:59, 3 June 2007 (UTC)
I'm not an authority on Darwin, so you should be having this discussion with someone else if what you want is an in-depth, extensive dissection of assorted passages from his many works. All I know is that nothing I've ever read either by or about him has in any way suggested that he endorsed any form of Lamarckian inheritance, at all. If you believe otherwise, it's on your head to support this, and you will need infinitely better support than just an ambiguous use of the term "disuse" in order to provide such support. (You will also need to avoid any original research.) The quote you provide is insufficient simply for the reason that your interpretation is only one of many possible interpretations. I haven't read the passage in question, but, for example, he could have been using "natural selection" in the narrow sense of positive selection; more plausibly, perhaps he was not referring to inherited reduction in size when he mentioned "disuse", but rather was referring to the fact that an organ may reduce in size and functionality during a single individual's lifetime if it is not used. Thus Darwin was perhaps discussing both individual organ degeneration (through "disuse") and evolutionary organ degeneration (through "natural selection"). Again, this is just speculation, as I don't really have time to go into a long discussion on the matter; but I think it's pretty uncontroversial among Darwin scholars that Darwin was not Lamarckist (to the point where it seems ridiculous for you to be asking me to defend that view), so you should provide some documented secondary sources affirming your personal interpretation before, I think, we can take it seriously. -Silence 08:47, 3 June 2007 (UTC)
It just seemed the logical interpretation to me, though I'll remove the paragraph I added since you seem fairly sure about this and probably know more about it than I do. I'll ask for comments on one of the biology projects - I would like to get some clarification on the matter since everything I read in his books seems to support my view, though it's probably just the way I'm reading it. Richard001 08:28, 4 June 2007 (UTC)

<unindent> This is an interesting point, and it's quite right that expert citations are needed to support what seems an unusual inference from the primary source. Browne's The Power of Place p 61 notes "While Darwin certainly allowed some place in his scheme for the direct effect of the environment on organisms – the inheritance of acquired characteristics that was popularly assumed to be the main feature of Lamarck's system – he always regarded the chief difference between them to be that he, Darwin, did not allow his organisms any future goal, any teleology pulling them forwards, or any internal force that might drive the adaptive changes in specific directions." Desmond and Moore's Darwin p 617 notes that later in life "Darwin was loath to let go of the notion that a well-used and strengthened organ could be inherited. For decades he had amassed evidence that tradesmen's physiques were passed on". Richard Leakey's commentary in The Illustrated Origin of Species goes into more detail, and I'll try to amend that article. The Origin p 108 notes "I think there can be no doubt that use in our domestic animals has strengthened and enlarged certain parts, and disuse diminished them; and that such modifications are inherited." In his RECAPITULATION AND CONCLUSION to the 6th edition of the Origin, p 421, Darwin evidently got it wrong – "species have been modified... chiefly through.. natural selection... aided in an important manner by the inherited effects of the use and disuse of parts... But as my conclusions have lately been much misrepresented, and it has been stated that I attribute the modification of species exclusively to natural selection,.. I placed in a most conspicuous position—namely, at the close of the Introduction—the following words: 'I am convinced that natural selection has been the main but not the exclusive means of modification.' This has been of no avail. Great is the power of steady misrepresentation; but the history of science shows that fortunately this power does not long endure." ... dave souza, talk 18:41, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

I'm still confused why both of you feel its an unusual inference. Anyway, I've restored the section after finding a reference, which should quell any doubts. Richard001 08:01, 9 July 2007 (UTC)
I think Dave souza was agreeing with you? I noticed that the Lamarckism article has an unreferenced section on Darwin & Lamarckism, would be good to fix it up with some of research and references you guys have gathered. Madeleine 23:35, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
The only research I did was look in the index of Darwin until I found a page that had a statement explicitly pointing out that he supported the theory, but I'll be happy to add it to Lamarckism as well. Richard001 00:46, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

"In Darwinism" -- Ahem. Darwin's views are not synonymous with Darwinism (and if you define them as so, you have a pointless tautology) ... evolutionary biology has advanced considerably since that time and Darwin was far from infallible (or omniscient, omnipotent, etc... science is not religion and we don't worship Darwin or treat his statements as dogma). Contrary to the unsupported opinions of some editors, some aspects of Darwin's views were Lamarckian, and Lamarckism gets this right. Darwin wrote in OoS that the vestigial eyes of moles and of cave-dwelling animals are "probably due to gradual reduction from disuse, but aided perhaps by natural selection." That is entirely unambiguous. -- (talk) 05:00, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

The pic[edit]

The picture at the top of the article isn't very clear, at least not at its current resolution. It makes it look like the entire cecum is the appendix, because the labels are difficult to make out. 03:24, 17 April 2007 (UTC)

Vestigial structures vs. vestigial characters[edit]

We only have this one article for vestigiality, but vestigial characters need not be morphological. What about vestigial behaviors and physiological mechanisms? Should the page perhaps be moved to vestigial character (or vestigiality) so as to afford a greater scope (or more accurate name for what the article describes)? Richard001 23:05, 4 May 2007 (UTC)

There hasn't been any feedback so I decided to just move it. It turned out to be a bit of work, as all the archives, to do list and peer reviews needed moving as well, and there are many redirect pages. Hopefully this name will stick, though it could be moved back or somewhere else if needed. Basically we need to start with an article discussing vestigial characters of all forms, behavioral, physiological, structural etc. The only other options seem to be vestigial character or perhaps moving it back to the better known name but making it very clear that is only part of what the article discusses, though I don't think that would be the best option.
Note: Just to make it clear, though the article still mainly focuses on anatomical structures, the idea is that it will shift its focus to something far broader.Richard001 10:53, 23 May 2007 (UTC)

I don't think the thing about babies being able to grab your hair and hold on is vestigal. They can do it, if you let them, with hair on your head. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:13, 5 May 2009 (UTC)


I mentioned microbes in the to do list, though I'm not sure if they actually have vestigial characters. There's no reason they shouldn't in principle, as they are just as capable of adapting to a new environment as any other species, however I would imagine that because they evolve so fast compared with the large eukaryotic organisms such characters would be gone very swiftly. Richard001

Bad Reference[edit]

I am removing all references to <>, as it is an inaccurate source in many ways. It claims that penguins have hollow bones (when every source I have ever read states that they have solid bones), and the references at the end are only relevant to single-cellular organisms. Disconformist 17:30, 29 June 2007 (UTC)

Useful reference[edit]

You might find this review useful. TimVickers 17:47, 5 June 2007 (UTC)

Fong D, Kane T, Culver D (1995). "Vestigialization and Loss of Nonfunctional Characters". Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 26: 249–68. doi:10.1146/ 

Thanks Tim. I was looking for information on this subject in some textbooks yesterday and to my dismay I found some texts on evolution didn't even have it in the index, and others gave at most a few paragraphs to the subject. I'll work on it as soon as I have some more time. Richard001 21:45, 5 June 2007 (UTC)

Creationism section[edit]

It says here that creationists who believe in some sort of microevolution but not macroevolution need not be worried about vestigial traits. Why? Our own appendix is not only a vestige in us, but has been for a long, long time. We would have been treated as several different species during the change from whatever we were when it was functional to what we are now. This is an uncited comment and will be removed completely (at the moment it is hidden) if there is no explanation. Richard001 07:01, 29 August 2007 (UTC)

Why do we even *have* a section on "controversy"? There is NO controversy, just a bunch of deluded idiots who refuse to acknowledge indisputable facts. Inclusion of this section in no way clarifies the article, and actually undermines it by creating a false sense of controversy. Unless someone can suggest a damned fine reason to keep it, I'm just flat-out deleting it. Mokele 22:02, 13 November 2007 (UTC)

For the origin of this section, I suggest looking at 2006 in the history as well as archive 2. The seeds of the section were in the article from the earliest days, with weasley definitions of vestigial being included. As the article grew, separate sections were added to gather information under and the "controversy" section ended up in that form as an attempt to finally remove any question of what scientists mean when they use the word, and what they have meant in the past. I still think some history of the term and information on the misinformation and misunderstanding that floats around would be useful. Skittle (talk) 00:00, 25 February 2008 (UTC)

'Reservoir for good bacteria'?![edit] Discuss :) Just bringing this to talk page as clearly there is disagreement here, and however we decide it probably shouldn't include the phrase 'good bacteria'. Skittle (talk) 19:46, 24 February 2008 (UTC)

My edit is correct - just because something has a minor remnant function does not mean it is any less vestigial. To quote this article itself: "Although structures usually called "vestigial" are largely or entirely functionless, a vestigial structure may retain lesser functions or develop minor new ones." The cocyx has muscles attached to it, gas exchange still occurs in the vestigial left lung of snakes, lungfish use their gills for nitrogen excretion, etc. That the appendix has a minor function does not make it any less of a vestige. If FiveRings wants to discuss these remnant functions, he should add them to the appendix article itself, not this article. The "examples" list is supposed to be just that - a list, not a detailed examination of each and every case. Mokele (talk) 21:08, 24 February 2008 (UTC)
It's only a "minor remnant function" in humans living in modern society, who are biologically identical to humans living in situations where the appendix is useful (some are even still around today). This doesn't fit the definition. The appendix comment has a useful place in the examples list precisely because its vestigiality is still a common mis-perception. Hopefully Mokele will re-think her edit. FiveRings (talk) 23:21, 24 February 2008 (UTC)
It being useful doesn't make it less vestigial. See the definition of vestigial found in the article and perhaps have a read of the, interesting, article Vermiform appendix. However minor or major the function, if it is not doing the original job it is vestigial. Skittle (talk) 23:57, 24 February 2008 (UTC)
Second paragraph: However, care must be taken not to apply the label of vestigiality to exaptations, in which a structure originally used for one purpose is modified for a new one. For example, the wings of penguin would not be vestigial, as they have been modified for a substantial new purpose (underwater locomotion), while those of an emu would be, as they have no major purpose anymore (not even for display as in ostriches). Were we reading the same article? FiveRings (talk) 00:51, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
Check the edit history: I wrote what you just quoted, so I'm more than aware of the difference between exaptation and vestigiality. The usefulness of the appendix as a refuge for beneficial bacteria is mere speculation, and has never been tested or examined to my knowledge. Furthermore, lack of beneficial bacteria doesn't kill people with diahrea-inducing diseases such as cholera - the loss of water, electrolytes, and nutrients do. If you're worried about growing your gut flora back, you're already in the clear, and the presence of a reservoir would merely speed recovery rather than prevent mortality. Until and unless someone actually tests the hypothesis, it won't be included in the article. Hypotheses are a dime a dozen; that's why nobody accepts them until they've been tested Mokele (talk) 03:22, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
I provided a link to the published article. (A real controlled experiment probably wouldn't get past the human use committee). The question is if it provides an evolutionary benefit such that passing on the mutation is more than chance. If the hypothesis is correct, it does. And we all seem to have one, despite the obvious dis-advantage of appendicitis. That said, I would support removing the appendix from this article completely (including the picture). This issue is very new. More data will certainly be forthcoming. FiveRings (talk) 05:57, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
I've read the article, and data doesn't require an explicitly manipulative experiment - just look at relative mortality rates of patients with intestinal diseases who have had appendectomies and those who haven't. It hasn't been done, and any good scientist will simply say 'well, where's the data to support it?'. As for the retention of the appendix, you incorrectly assume it's easy to 'lose' a trait. In actuality, almost all traits aren't the product of a single gene, but rather a complex pattern of activation of dozens or hundreds of developmental genes, making it probable that a mutation will have undesirable side effects. When looking at the evidence, I see absolutely no reason to remove the appendix from this article or to treat this latest hypothesis as anything but yet another of numerous attempts to find a significant function of what is obviously vestigial, so much so that it has become the effective 'poster child' of vestigiality. If more data does arrive, and if it supports the hypothesis, I'll change the article myself, but until then, there is no reason to either omit or qualify the listing of the appendix, especially since anyone who clicks on the link to the appendix wikipage will be able to read about this dispute directly and in much more detailed terms. Mokele (talk) 06:08, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
The value of the reservoir is in isolated populations where everyone gets sick, not in crowded conditions where there can be community-based reinfection with new beneficial bacteria. Your proposed experiment would be meaningless. Yes, the appendix is the poster child of vestigiality. And, precisely BECAUSE there are dozens of theories about its use, it's the WRONG poster child. This should be opened to wider debate. FiveRings (talk) 17:07, 25 February 2008 (UTC)
There is no wider debate without evidence. There are NO theories about it's use, because none of these hypotheses have been tested (required for elevation to theory status). That's how science works. I can propose a dozen hypotheses for just about anything, ranging from plausible to moronic, but they all mean nothing until they are TESTED. That there have been lots of proposals is irrelevant to this discussion - only data matters.
Until you (or anyone else) can produce actual empirical data for these hypotheses, there is precisely zero justification for claiming the appendix as non-vestigial. Sorry, but that's how science works: you need evidence to support a claim. Mokele (talk) 03:44, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
The issue isn't how science works, it's how Wikipedia works.... FiveRings (talk) 06:24, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
You're wrong. Science is still working on this issue. Should wikipedia react to every utterance of a scientist prior to confirmation or acceptance? David D. (Talk) 07:41, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
But that's exactly the point. Science is still working on this issue. The matter isn't resolved one way or the other (and, given the nature of the organ, may never be). It's a lousy example. (More opinions please). FiveRings (talk) 18:01, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
It's a text book example with one speculative paper that disputes it. I think we can live with this example until more is known. This is exactly the type of thing that happened when researchers claimed that Mendel's laws were broken by Arabidopsis. There was a rush to add it to articles and then it got proven incorrect six months later. Encyclopedias do not have to respond instantly. At most, reference the article, but to remove the example is premature. David D. (Talk) 18:10, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
There have been other papers published proposing other functions. I will grant that biofilms are flavor-of-the-month in biology research. (Mendel:Biology::Newton:Physics). FiveRings (talk) 22:45, 26 February 2008 (UTC)
David D's example is very good (and I remember that, though only vaguely, as genetics isn't my field). The problem is that the appendix is so famous that lots of people want to be "the person who discovered what it's for", and that's lead to a plethora of hypotheses, none of which have panned out. The number of claims is irrelevant without proof - I can find five times as many ideas about what's in Loch Ness, but until I see a corpse I see no reason to consider it anything but a big spooky lake full of bad-tasting cod (and whose hotels serve the worst ****ing coffee in the Western World, I should note). Mokele (talk) 02:03, 27 February 2008 (UTC)
Can cod live in a freshwater loch? As for the coffee, what did you think the whiskey is for? ;) David D. (Talk) 04:32, 27 February 2008 (UTC)
My bad, I must've gotten them confused with carp. Sadly, at the age I visited Ness, I wasn't allowed anything strong enough to rid myself of the taste of that coffee. Mokele (talk) 04:42, 27 February 2008 (UTC)
Scottish cuisine notwithstanding (and that alone is an oxymoron), the fact that the appendix is a perpetual target is, again, a reason it makes a lousy example. It's inflamed - remove it. FiveRings (talk) 06:14, 27 February 2008 (UTC)
It's only a target because, to be honest, most medical doctors have a half-assed understanding of evolutionary biology at best (and, to be honest, many of the more esoteric aspects of evolution which resolve this conflict wouldn't really help them in their profession anyway). The dispute over the appendix is a figment caused by this lack of understanding - we might as well get rid of evolution itself based on the constant attacks by creationists. Mokele (talk) 20:36, 27 February 2008 (UTC)

Given the appendix is currently a text book example it would be far better to document the debate rather than prematurely delete it. David D. (Talk) 06:19, 27 February 2008 (UTC)

Ok, here's my general POV, in summarized form: The appendix is the 'poster-child' of vestigiality, and while numerous claims have been made about it's function, none have ever been supported. Furthermore, it's merely an example, albeit a prominent one, in this article, which is supposed to be about vestigiality in general. Given both of these, as well as the fact that the various hypotheses are detailed in the vermiform appendix article, I see the present state as the closest to ideal - This article isn't bogged down with needless qualifiers and disputes, and interested readers can find out more on the organ's individual page. In terms of accuracy as well as style, readability, and presentation, I think the current state is best. Mokele (talk) 20:36, 27 February 2008 (UTC)

And so the appendix controversy rears its ugly head again. This should be documented. A single sentence would do it. FiveRings (talk) 22:03, 27 March 2008 (UTC)
I've added a bit which highlights the appendix and the total lack of data about any known function. However, I suspect there will continue to be careless edits made; at least it's not suffering the sort of infantile vandalism seen on other pages, though. Mokele (talk) 03:40, 28 March 2008 (UTC)
Softened and tightened wording. Made 'hypothesis' a link for good measure. FiveRings (talk) 04:19, 28 March 2008 (UTC)

I noted today that The Penguin dictionary of biology (10th edition, Thain & Hickman) says it's not vestigial. Richard001 (talk) 05:18, 28 March 2008 (UTC)

Call me a cynic, but based on the name I suspect that book has large type, lots of pictures, and possibly pop-up illustrations. Anyhow, such a book would constitute a secondary source at best, thus inferior to direct reference of the primary literature. Mokele (talk) 02:18, 29 March 2008 (UTC)
Well, the caricature of the dictionary you paint is fairly absurd, but I agree that biological dictionaries aren't very good sources. I often go to one when I want a good definition of a biological phenomenon, but I'm usually disappointed with what they give. Richard001 (talk) 07:28, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
I usually just use Google; nine times out of ten I find a page or paper that explicitly defines whatever term I'm unclear on. Mokele (talk) 17:20, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

More examples of vestigial characteristics[edit]

I don't think it would improve this article to give a long list of examples, but perhaps another page could do so? Of course, it would be impossible to give a full list (in fact most are unknown), but a long list could provide more examples and back up the claim that they occur in pretty much every macro-organism (i.e. plants and animals) for the skeptics out there. So it would be something like a list of vestigial traits or something like that. There are a lot of interesting examples I have heard of (e.g. moths that can hear the ultrasonic calls of bats, despite no longer being nocturnal), and I think there are some people out there who might take a lot of convincing. Would this be a good idea, or is it just overkill? Richard001 (talk) 07:37, 20 August 2008 (UTC)


The article currently says "Many whales also have undeveloped, unused, pelvis bones in the anterior part of their torsos. It is note worthy to know that the vestigial leg bones are used during mating[citation needed]"

That last sentence seems to be a claim put around by creationists with apparently nothing to back it up. Can it either be removed or confirmed please? Jooler (talk) 22:24, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
Done. Aunt Entropy (talk) 02:30, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Are there any facts to back up the rest of the claims made on this page or are they just theories people have had based on their limited knowledge of what is or isn't useful to the animal? (talk) 19:30, 24 April 2012 (UTC)
This claim has reappeared, this time with a citation. The link to the citation went to the article's edit page, however. I dug up the original article at the Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals, but it doesn't seem to say what the citation claims ("They are functionally significant structures for the purposes of copulation and defecation."). All it states is that the vestigial pelvis has some muscles of the perineum attached to it, and clarifies that the muscles are used for reproduction and waste disposal as normal. This is in support of the homology of those bones being a vestigial limb girdle despite not being attached to the spine. Regardless, I fixed the link to the citation. (talk) 22:02, 10 June 2012 (UTC)
I applaud both your research and actions, but would remark that your (at least apparent) reservations are unnecessary: "...some muscles of the perineum attached to it, and ... the muscles are used for reproduction and waste disposal..." seems adequate grounds for regarding the bones as functional as well as vestigial. Vestigiality is an aspect and a matter of degree and context, not an absolute definition of structures in general. There are muscles that work without direct attachment to bone, but those that are so attached generally do need the attachment and the bone if they are to perform. The whales' pelvic bones accordingly seem to meet every criterion for an example of an attribute that is completely vestigial in some senses and contexts and not at all or not entirely so in others.
As for earlier remarks on creationists' views, they don't matter because they do not counter the visible evidence of vestigiality. Anyone who insists that homologous structures cannot be vestigial because they are in some way functional, not only doesn't understand, but doesn't want to understand. For such there is no conviction, we need only provide clarification for inquirers who are interested in, and accessible to, facts and reason. This means that we must be careful in our definitions, our explanations, and our contexts. JonRichfield (talk) 08:29, 11 June 2012 (UTC)

Thermoregulatory effect of Human Arrectores pilorum[edit]

Raising the hair is also used to trap an extra layer of air, keeping an animal warm. This reflex formation of goosebumps when cold is not vestigial in humans, but the reflex to form them under stress is.

This portion of the Vestigiality article is based on a since corrected mistake in the Human vestigiality article. Here is the portion in question, followed by the reasons I gave for altering it:

Raising the hair is also used to trap an extra layer of air, keeping an animal warm. This reflex formation of goosebumps when cold therefore has a useful function in humans with thick body hair, but the reflex to form them under stress is vestigial.
  1. No source is cited to provide evidence that even “particularly hairy humans” are hairy enough to trap a sufficient volume of air to be considered an efficient thermoregulatory mechanism. Without such evidence, the classification of their function as “useful,” even in such people, is unwarranted. Unfortunately, I am unaware of any studies conducted that measure the efficiency.
  2. The question of whether or not the contraction of Arrectores pilorum, when a human is cold, is an efficient thermoregulatory mechanism in particularly hairy humans is irrelevant to the question of whether or not the mechanism is vestigial in an overall sense. There is no contention that their contraction, when cold, is has no significant thermoregulatory effect in most humans, thus overall, the mechanism is vestigial in regards to thermoregulation, as well as emotion. (regardless of whether or not particularly hairy humans are exceptions)
  3. Even the Wikapidia article on Arrectores pilorum arrives at the same conclusion (despite requiring a necessary citation to provide sufficient evidence to that end):
Although humans' Arrectores pilorum also contract in response to cold or arousal, they are vestigial because humans do not have enough hair to make them effective.


For these reasons, I have reworded the Vestigiality article as follows:

Raising the hair is also used to trap an extra layer of air, keeping an animal warm. Due to the diminished amount of hair in humans, the reflex formation of goosebumps when cold is also vestigial.

FutureMolecularBio (talk) 13:36, 4 March 2009 (UTC)

The picture in the human section[edit]

The picture in the human section is used wrong. The picture shows that humans still have a tip on their ear, like ancestors used to have. It's not about the muscles. -00:15, 10 March 2009 (UTC)~ —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

Ostrich wings[edit]

The following statement in the article,

For example, the wings of penguin or ostrich would not be vestigial, as they have been modified for a substantial new purpose (underwater locomotion or display respectively)

directly conflicts with this statement, also from the article,

The wings of ostriches, emus, and other flightless birds are vestigial

. So which is it? Are Ostrich wings vestigial or not. My understanding is the flight characteristic of Ostrich wings is vestigial, but the wing structure is not as it has another use. Whether my understanding is correct or not the statements need to be clarified in the article as they clearly contradict in thier current form. (talk) 12:18, 1 December 2009 (UTC)


The section on plants and other organisms clearly needs expansion as the article states. There is a reference on the small sentence leading to a pay article. If anyone has access to this article or is willing to pay, please comment here. This is obvious that they do but the information on it is very scientific and advanced. If someone can read the article, please contribute! :) Andrew Colvin (talk) 23:21, 30 April 2010 (UTC)

Science's one-page preview works to our advantage here: - the whole article is less than a page long. I added a few bits from it, but I'm not a botanist. Mokele (talk) 01:36, 1 May 2010 (UTC)
Wonderful! I added a bit more but I am so hoping that someone can gain access to the full article! Andrew Colvin (talk) 02:54, 1 May 2010 (UTC)

Wot about?[edit]

Chemical insecticides are often mutanogenic, and can result in insects that can "normally" fly (such as cockroaches) to be born with deformed wings, which are too ..... well, deformed, for them to be useful. When I went to school (1968) this was taught as an example of vestigiality. And the famous Thalidomide babies of the 1960s, again their deformed limbs were termed vestigial Is this still the thinking now? Old_Wombat (talk) 09:12, 27 January 2012 (UTC)

Yes, but in a totally different sense. Vestigial has two meanings in biology. In the context of evolution, it's the one described in this article. In more common colloquial usage, vestigial simply means "degenerate" or "undeveloped" [so as to become useless], from the original meaning of vestige - "remnant".-- Obsidin Soul 09:20, 27 January 2012 (UTC)

OK, then, in the article should we have a sentence of two discussing this meaning? Old_Wombat (talk) 00:30, 29 January 2012 (UTC)

Not really. Definitions are dealt with in the Wiktionary entry: wikt:Vestigial. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, and thus the article only deals with the notable subject discussed by the term itself (that in the context of evolution), not its meanings unless they themselves refer to notable subjects that have their own articles. The meaning of "vestigial" in the context of "remnant" has no encyclopedic significance.-- Obsidin Soul 19:09, 30 January 2012 (UTC)

Vestigiality at the molecular level[edit]

I was watching this video by Jack Szostak just now and just past 14:00 he talks about evidence for the RNA world hypothesis in modern life. He shows how certain complex molecules have a nucleotide as part of their structure, which does not serve any useful function in modern life forms, yet it may still be there as a remnant of a time very early in the history of life on Earth when it did serve an important purpose. And it reminded me of vestigiality because it is essentially a part of an organism that once served a function but no longer does. It may in fact be one of the earliest examples of vestigiality in life on earth. I think it would be worth looking into and adding to the article, but unfortunately I am not an expert in this area and I don't really know what to look for in the way of sources. Can someone help? CodeCat (talk) 17:56, 9 April 2012 (UTC)

Who gets to dictate the magnitude of changes?[edit]

Yesterday I put in a couple of changes amounting to a couple of hundred words. Interested parties can inspect the history to evaluate them. They amounted mainly to putting most of the lede content into an introductory overview section, leaving an adequate lede for potential readers, and correcting a few minor errors and one embarrassing blunder. Judgeking however disapproved and reverted the whole lot without more explanation than his edit summary "Use the discussion page before making changes of this magnitude". Far larger edits without special discussion are routine; if we had to waste time waiting for talk page responses and discussion every time we exceed 200 words, we never would get anywhere. A far more appropriate response is either to correct unsuitable content or to discuss it in the talk page, which I certainly have done often and in this case JK has not. Unless anyone has a clear objection, I shall be reinstating the changes later today. JonRichfield (talk) 11:17, 22 May 2012 (UTC)

No one and everyone gets to 'dictate' magnitude. In case you're not aware, the subjects of evolution and vestigiality are controversial and highly prone to vandalism. Just a quick glance of the diff show hundreds of changes and 6 paragraphs reduced to 3. Is Just like to leave your mark? Try and make a few hundred word change on the Jesus or Mohammed and see what happens. --Judgeking (talk) 18:34, 22 May 2012 (UTC)

JK, in case you had been worried on my account of my understanding of the situation, consider:

  • Yes, no one & everyone dictates, as you say. However, there are responsible and courteous ways of dealing with material that you have not yet gone into. Simply reverting what you don't like at first blush is not a good beginning.
  • In case you are not aware, evolution is a pervasive complex of themes in biology and related disciplines. They arise in probably hundreds of articles in WP, often explicitly, not just in a few obvious titles. Vestigiality is no worse off in this respect than most of the other subjects. Even if it were the worst, the difference between a change of one word or 100 or 1000 would not placate the anti-science brigade, nor would lying doggo. They are always on the prowl, so when I edit any article, I generally put it on my watchlist. Your concern for minimising the scale of change is not a justification for arbitrary reversion, nor is it an effective measure in dealing with the vandals; with support like that, who needs vandalism?
  • "Just a quick glance of the diff show hundreds of changes" is no justification for reversion; reversion is a serious matter and demands serious attention. Paragraph count is no better. If you cannot see the reasons for the changes, then you are not qualified to evaluate them. There are changes in readability, added links, changes in fact (Try the little gem about the tails of crabs!) and changes in sense (Did you notice in the diffs, such passages as: "It is difficult, however, to say that a vestigial character is detrimental to the organism in the long term — the future is unpredictable, and that which is of no use in the present may, according to evolution theory, develop into something useful in the future"? Run that one past any evolutionary biologist or theorist and ask him whether there is any particular reason to change it, or whether it just might sound better. Why ask me, if you saw fit to delete unread what I had written.)
  • Jesus and Mohammed said little on the subject of evolutionary biology, least of all anything to deny empirical fact or good sense. For adherents of the Abrahamic religions to deny scientific observations and conclusions is blasphemy in terms of their own faiths, but since the militant parties are neither intellectually nor ethically equipped to deal with such matters, I rarely waste my time pointing this out. Accordingly you will not as a rule find me labouring in those vineyards as either an editor or author. But if you have any special revelations on the point, feel free to enlarge. Among other points you might like to cover, try thinking about how large or small a substantial change would avoid ruffling the feathers of the vultures. You might like to consider Twain's remarks on Jesus H. and how well it went down on that occasion. Not every exciting change needs to be on a large scale.
  • Leave my mark? Damright! The mark I try to leave is material that aids in covering the subject matter comprehensively and comprehensibly, and as far as I can within WP constraints, pleasantly. You have an objection to leaving a mark? Please explain how to implement a worthwhile edit without it.

Now look, your intentions I am sure, and mine I know, are to achieve something worthwhile for WP. I'll leave the article as it is another day, during which you may do anything you consider reasonable to the article. If I approve your efforts as adequate, that will do. It goes against the grain, because some of the errors are so egregious that it is offensive to contemplate anyone reading them. However, a spirit of compromise... etc. If not however, I shall revert once more, in which case, if you still disapprove, I request that you do not start an edit war, but institute an RFC.

Unless you have a better suggestion. JonRichfield (talk) 08:10, 23 May 2012 (UTC)

You talk too much. --Judgeking (talk) 18:12, 23 May 2012 (UTC)

Small appendix[edit]

I have edited the vermiform appendix bit slightly, but I am not happy with it. It seems to me that the present (and past) text is too glib in failing to distinguish between the appendix and the caecum. In humans it is really the caecum rather than the appendix that is vestigial. Relatively speaking, the human appendix is not dramatically smaller than in many herbivores, whereas the caecum certainly is. Comments, anyone? JonRichfield (talk) 09:15, 27 June 2012 (UTC)


A vestigial is any body part which has lost or originally had no functionality from in any respect and developed in the womb (?), not only through resurfacing ancestral genes which have lost functionality. For example, many supernumerary body parts are vestigial. The header should be adjusted to reflect.

Macmillion Dictionary says: "SCIENCE remaining or existing, but not developed or working". The word does not only relate to paleo-evolutionary categorization and speculation. --IronMaidenRocks (talk) 18:19, 11 July 2013 (UTC)

The human appendix is not vestigial[edit]

According to recent research, including biochemical, clinical, and evolutionary studies, the appendix is no longer considered vestigial:;jsessionid=06619B9F28A175E9D107FDEA7058C72F.f04t04

The Wikipedia entry should be corrected to reflect this fact. There are plenty of other examples of vestigial structures that can be used without resorting to false information about the appendix (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 17:09, 2 October 2013 (UTC)

Robert Wiedersheim[edit]

I just wanted to note that I made a recent revision ([3]) where I changed the text regarding Robert Wiedersheim in the history section. One of the reasons given was that a particular quote was from a different edition of The structure of man than the one referenced. This was incorrect, the quote is from the correct edition but I still think the current text is clearer. Knight of the sorrowful countenance (talk) 19:49, 5 December 2015 (UTC)