Vestigial Structures

The coccyx is a vestigial structure in humans. Getty/Science Photo Library - SCIEPRO


A vestigial structure is an anatomical feature that no longer seems to have a purpose in the current form of an organism of the given species. Often, these vestigial structures were organs that performed some important function in the organism at one point in the past. However, as the population changed due to natural selection, those structures became less and less necessary until they were rendered pretty much useless.

While most of these types of structures would probably disappear over many generations, some seem to keep being passed down to offspring even though they have no known function.


Also Known As: vestigial organs


There are many examples of vestigial structures in humans. One specific example in humans would be the coccyx, or the tail bone. Obviously, humans no longer have visible external tails since the current version of humans do not need tails to live in trees as earlier human ancestors did. However, humans still have a coccyx or tail bone in their skeletons.

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Scoville, Heather. "Vestigial Structures." ThoughtCo, Mar. 7, 2017, Scoville, Heather. (2017, March 7). Vestigial Structures. Retrieved from Scoville, Heather. "Vestigial Structures." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 18, 2018).