Article Analysis-Why Humans Don’t Have Tails.
WHY HUMANS DON’T HAVE TAILS
Published by Smithsonian Magazine, Corryn Wetzel 2021 article, “Why Humans Don’t Have Tails”, delves into how and why some primates, such as human beings lost their tails. For a long time, this issue has remained largely a mystery, however, new information suggests that a single genetic mutation might have caused the sudden change. Wetzel notes that the primate ancestors relied on their tails to provide balance as they navigated the treetops. This was not until 25 million years ago when researchers came across fossil records of tailless apes. A graduate student at NYU, Bo Xia, grew interested in researching the disappearance of tails in human beings after he had an accident and injured his coccyx, a triangular bone found at the base of the human spine.
To know exactly how and why human beings lost their tails, Xia and his colleagues took it upon themselves to study the stages of embryonic growth during which specific genes are switched off and on. These genes contain regulate the formation of various sections of a skeleton. Scientists had already recognized 30 genes critical to tail development among other animals. As such, the study already suspected the possibility of a genetic mutation(s) as being responsible for erasing human tails. Upon comparing DNA of six apes without tails to nine species of monkeys with tails, they found that humans and apes shared a mutation that monkey’s lacked (Magazine & Wetzel, 2022). Their research led to the discovery of a gene called TBXT. To assess whether it was possible to connect tail disappearance to mutation, the researchers genetically tweaked mice to give the same TBXT mutation as humans. After making the genetic edit, most of the rodents did not grow tails, while some developed short tails. A geneticist from Cornell University noted that although the research could not prove that a single mutation was entirely responsible for the mutation that led to the disappearance of tails in humans, it was the closest thing to a smoking gun we could get. Most importantly, the research concluded that our ancestors lost their tails suddenly and not gradually, which aligns with fossil record findings of scientists.
Judging from the findings of the research highlighted in this article, there is a huge possibility that human beings at one point had a tail that eventually disappeared. In my standpoint, I agree with Xia’s findings that either a single mutation or several mutations were responsible for the disseverance of the human tail. Although the findings of the research are sturdy, the main concern would be what other factors triggered the mutation. From my standpoint, I feel that multiple factors could have triggered the mutation. Without a doubt, genes had everything to do with the mutation, but that does not take away from the possibility that other factors such as change of environment, diet, or even climate could have triggered the genetic mutation of tail disappearance. In essence, genetic mutation is such a complex issue that can be difficult to understand especially if one does not have a scientific background. The discovery of the TBXT gene is the closest lead that we could have to understanding the sudden disappearance of genes in human beings. I agree with the discoveries made in this article; that the mutation randomly emerged in one single ape millions of years ago and from there was passed from offspring to offspring spreading like wildfire. Until we come across new information that contradicts the discovery that gene (s) mutation is responsible for tail disappearance, it would be better to hold on to this information as the truth because it is the closest we have gotten.
Magazine, S., & Wetzel, C. (2022). Why Humans Don’t Have Tails. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 9 February 2022, from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/the-genetic-mutation-that-could-explain-how-humans-lost-their-tail-180978764/.
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