Front Page Detectives
BREAKING NEWS

Evolution Explained: How Did Humans Lose Their Tails?

Why Don't Humans Have Tails? DNA Mutation to Blame: Study
Source: MEGA

Researchers say humans and apes don't have tails due to a twist of genetic fate that occurred around 25 million years ago.

Mar. 4 2024, Published 9:03 a.m. ET

Link to FacebookShare to XShare to Email

A groundbreaking discovery sheds light on a pivotal moment in human evolution, revealing how our ancestors parted ways with their primate predecessors by shedding their tails around 25 million years ago.

Scientists from New York University Langone Health have unveiled insights into this transformative event. Lead researcher Dr. Bo Xia expressed his lifelong fascination with the question of how humans lost their tails.

Article continues below advertisement

By analyzing DNA samples from humans, tailless apes and monkeys, the team uncovered a crucial genetic difference. Monkeys lacked a specific genetic code segment present in humans and tailless apes.

Contrary to conventional mutation-driven evolution, this change was facilitated by the insertion of a genetic element called AluY, according to the study published in Nature.

This "snippet" of genetic material was randomly added to the genomes of early humans and tailless apes during ancient times. The resulting gene, when combined with TBXT, controlled the length of tails, leading to their disappearance in humans and certain apes.

Dr. Jef Boeke, Director of the Institute for Systems Genetics, highlighted the significance of this discovery. Unlike most genetic elements, AluY had a profound impact on tail length, defying expectations.

MORE ON:
Breaking News
Article continues below advertisement

The study also suggests a connection between tail loss and the development of the coccyx, or tailbone, in humans, gorillas and chimpanzees. However, the reasons behind this evolutionary shift remain unclear.

Experiments on mice hinted at potential consequences of tail loss, such as an increased risk of neural tube defects. These defects, including conditions like spina bifida, arise when the spinal cord fails to align properly with the spine.

Never miss a story — sign up for the Front Page Detectives newsletter. Be on the scene the moment news breaks.

Dr. Itai Yanai, another study author, proposed future experiments to explore whether the loss of tails in humans played a role in the prevalence of neural tube birth defects.

This research opens new avenues for understanding the complex interplay between evolution and developmental biology.

Advertisement

Become a Front Page Detective

Sign up to receive breaking
Front Page Detectives
news and exclusive investigations.

More Stories

Opt-out of personalized ads

© Copyright 2024 FRONT PAGE DETECTIVES™️. A DIVISION OF EMPIRE MEDIA GROUP INC. FRONT PAGE DETECTIVES is a registered trademark. All rights reserved. Registration on or use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Service, Privacy Policy and Cookies Policy. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services. Offers may be subject to change without notice.