If we don't need an appendix, why is it there in the first place? (Thinkstock)
If we don't need an appendix, why is it there in the first place?
Lexile

You asked us, "If we don't need an appendix, why is it there in the first place?"
 
Well, just because you don't need your appendix, doesn't mean it's useless.
 
Now for a long time people thought it was, and Charles Darwin theorized the appendix was a shriveled, leftover organ used by early humans to help digest leaves. And that's been the predominant thinking up until recently.
 
But that's the great thing about science, where everyone thinks one thing, and then someone else says, "Hey, I've a better explanation."
 
A team of researchers did just that and wondered if it's not so much what the appendix does, but what it can hold.
 
See, our bodies are like an apartment building, and we have tenants living inside of us. These tenants are bacteria, and in fact, there's about 10 times more bacteria in and on our bodies than our actual cells.
 
But like all good tenants, they pay rent. The bacteria in our gut help us digest food, manufacture vitamins, even help our immune system. That's right, bacteria in our bodies help our immune system fight other bacteria, but sometimes invading bacteria get the best of our immune system and we get sick. Like, cholera sick or dysentery sick.  
 
Not be gross, but we're talking life-threatening, never-ending diarrhea sick.
 
In cases like this, all your good gut bacteria could be washed out, unless they had a place to hunker down, like the appendix.
 
Scientists theorize the appendix acts as a reserve, where good bacteria can hide until the illness is over, and then re-emerge and repopulate the gut, and go right back to helping us out.
 
Now you may not be that familiar with diseases like cholera or dysentery, and that's because modern sewage systems have largely done away with them.
 
So in today's high tech world, you can live just fine without your appendix.
 
But you never know, maybe sometime in the future, another scientist will have a better explanation.

Filed Under:  
Assigned 80 times
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why are we able to live without an appendix today?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (9)
  • erino-6-bar
    12/12/2015 - 07:53 p.m.

    We are able to live without an appendix today because of better hygiene. Modern day scientists' theory, which was stated in the article, is that "The appendix acts as a reserve, where good bacteria can hide until the illness is over, and then re-emerge and repopulate the gut," Since the appendix is used to store good bacteria until illnesses such as cholera or dysentery which, according to the article, "modern sewage systems have largely done away with," We can conclude that, because of today's sanitation devices such as sewage systems, even though appendixes do have a job, we are able to live without them in current times.

    I found this article interesting because, like many others, I thought that the appendix was an organ used only by early humans that no longer has a purpose.

  • colemand-
    12/15/2015 - 08:33 a.m.

    It is amazing what our bodies can do. It is even more amazing how they grow and changer over time. The appendix was thought to be useless but it actually serves a purpose, and i thought that too. That just goes to show that everything serves a purpose.

  • jacobp123456791-
    12/15/2015 - 08:37 a.m.

    Because nowadays we don't have to worry about cholera or dysentery. Many years ago we would have outbreaks of these diseases and our immune system couldn't handle them. However, when our bodies went to kill the bacteria, they would also kill good bacteria. Then they can hide out in the appendix until the infection is over.

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    12/15/2015 - 12:03 p.m.

    We are able to live without an appendix because we now have the science and technology to have better hygiene and use medicines to do what the appendix does for us.

  • ShawnaWeiser-Ste
    12/15/2015 - 03:46 p.m.

    I had my appendix taken out when I was in third grade. Am I at a higher risk to get diseases because I don't have an appendix? I can't believe it has taken this long to even theorize the job of the appendix.

  • justinet-mor
    12/19/2015 - 11:08 a.m.

    In the article it was evident to the fact that we are able to live without an appendix, since in the article we are compared to an apartment building. While making this comparison, statements were written showing the comparisons. One of them was, "These tenants are bacteria...But like all good tenants, they pay rent. The bacteria in our gut help us digest food, manufacture vitamins, even help our immune system. That's right, bacteria in our bodies help our immune system fight other bacteria, but sometimes invading bacteria get the best of our immune system and we get sick. Like, cholera sick or dysentery sick." This section is about how there are good bacteria, but there can as well be bad bacteria, that can negatively affect us. Later in the article, it explains that the appendix is only a RESERVE, for positive bacteria in the scenario in which the human is severely sick with either cholera or dysentery. However these illnesses aren't very common because the current sewage systems have annihilated these illnesses. Which shows no purpose in the appendix. Until, another scientist finds another purpose of it's being.

  • larissag-mor
    12/19/2015 - 02:26 p.m.

    We are able to live without an appendix today, because in modern times we have better hygiene and medicines. Some scientists think that "the appendix acts as a reserve, where good bacteria can hide until the illness is over, and then re-emerge and repopulate the gut, and go right back to helping us out." So, we think our appendix was mostly used to store extra good bacteria until terrible illnesses were better.

    In older times, people would get very sick from illnesses like cholera and dysentery. These illnesses would wipe out all of the good bacteria in a person's body. If you were able to get better, you would need your appendix to release the good bacteria that was being stored inside of it. If you did not have your appendix, you would probably die.

    Luckily today, we do not have these terrible illnesses because of the modern times. Now these terrible illnesses rarely happen, because we have better sewage, hygiene and medicines. As you can see, we are able to live without an appendix, because the way we live today has got us protected. So we can survive today without an appendix, but since scientists are not totally sure about this, I would like to keep mine.

  • jilliant-mor
    12/19/2015 - 04:20 p.m.

    We are able to live without an appendix today because while the appendix is like a hideout for bacteria in our bodies, we most likely won’t have to use the appendix. In the article, it says “Now you may not be that familiar with diseases like cholera or dysentery and that’s because modern sewage systems have done largely away with them.” This shows that we should most likely be able to live without our appendix because most diseases and sicknesses that would have our own bacteria have to go down to the appendix are gone, so our bacteria would not have to hide and we would not need our appendixes. Today, we also have new technology and vaccines. Our human bodies have evolved since they have come into existence, and our bodies eventually become immune to something after having experienced it multiple times. For example, if you play basketball, and your team loses every game, you would become immune to losing because you would be used to it. It would not have any effect on you. This relates to the appendix problem because as many people in the past had suffered from cholera, dysentery, or any other long-lost diseases, their bodies became immune to it, and then that immunity was passed down from generation to generation.
    Another reason why we are able to live without our appendix today is because we humans no longer eat leaves as much as early humans do. In the article it says “Charles Darwin theorized the appendix was a shriveled, leftover organ used by early humans to help digest leaves.” This shows that we don’t need our appendixes today because while we still eat leaves, we don’t eat them as much as the early humans did. Vegetables are a part of our daily meals, but not all vegetables are leaves. Early humans being hunter-gatherers only knew about the plants that they could eat near them, and they were probably mostly made of leaves. Now that we might not be eating leaves everyday and not as often, we don’t need our appendixes to help us digest them. In total, this is why we are able to live without an appendix today.

  • ashlyj-war
    12/22/2015 - 08:30 a.m.

    This is really amazing that humans have evolved and adapted so much that we are now able to live without an entire organ. This is an interesting article because this seems to be one of those common questions that no one really knew the answer to. It should also be interesting to see if scientists come up with another explanation as to why we are able to live without an appendix today.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT