Did humans have tails? A mysterious genetic mutation would have made it disappear based on a 25 million year old fossil


New York University Langone Health recently conducted a study that identified the potential time when humans lost their tails. The study was based on that of Charles Darwin theory of evolution, which indicates that the human lineage most likely originated from apes. The anatomical changes, which have baffled many scientists since the 19th century based on the findings, were caused by a genetic mutation that occurred 25 million years ago.

Did humans have tails?

(Photo: Petr Ganaj from Pexels)

Tails were present in the anatomy of the human ancestor for half a billion years. According to Commercial standard, tails are most often used by fish that existed in oceanic bodies from the Cambrian period and were later adopted by primates to keep their balance as they moved from place to place through branches of massive trees in the jungles of the Eocene epoch.

In previous paleontological studies, it was discovered that primates that existed 66 million years ago had complete body structures with tails. These tails are beneficial for their movement and locomotion, music like what we see in modern apes. But even though the ape families we see in today’s wildlife and conservations have full-fledged tails attached to their bodies, there were recent records that showed fossils of monkeys that had no all tail. These fossils are examined and have been dated to around 20 million years ago.

The sudden disappearance of tails and their absence in modern human anatomy has been analyzed with the help of biologists interested in the mystery of evolution. New York University Grossman School of Medicine stem cell biology expert and study lead author Bo Xia took inspiration from the intriguing puzzle of human tails. Xia was in a car accident in 2019, inflicting injuries on her coccyx. This part has been theorized by scientists as a remnant of another anatomical region which is a tail. Based on this experience, the expert was empowered to conduct his own research on the potential absence of human tails with other colleagues and collaborators.

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The TBTX gene has made human tails disappear

The examination led to an analysis of the tail, in particular on how it develops in the early stages below the embryonic stage. The team found that the simple growth of a tail is made up of 30 different genes that influence its growth.

Among the collection of genes during embryonic development, the researchers found one that has a greater influence on the mutation of humans and tailless apes. The gene is called TBTX, which manifested itself in the first species 20 million years ago. The specified gene is the cause of the truncated tail or even the lack of development in early monkeys.

The discovery of the genes that suppressed tails in human ancestors has raised more questions in the scientific community, as the reason why it manifested in the old gene pool remains unresolved. The strongest theory scientists believe involves the massive size of prehistoric primates, which has led the species to ignore the use of its tail and lose it. The study was published in the journal bioRxiv, titled “The Genetic Basis for the Evolution of Tail Loss in Humans and Apes.”

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