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. 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. 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.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why are we able to live without an appendix today?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (66)
  • aidanc-hor
    12/09/2015 - 02:33 p.m.

    I found this article quite interesting, as I never really thought much about the Appendix, or what it did. However I do think that Darwin's theory on the appendix makes a bit more sense, mostly because as we evolved from apes, we likely ate many more plants than most do today.

    • akarshs-mor
      12/18/2015 - 08:43 p.m.

      I totally agree to you but, how does your response answer the critical thinking question?

  • lucasl-3-bar
    12/09/2015 - 09:02 p.m.

    We are able to live without an appendix today due to the improved living conditions of the modern world. As stated by the article, diseases such as cholera and dysentery (which were previously caused by sewage systems that transmitted the germs) were common before, when systems were not as clean and safe as they are today. These diseases flushed out helpful bacteria in the body, so the appendix provided protection from eradication of these bacteria. Thus, as the illnesses do not pose a threat to most people now, the appendix, which was formed to combat this problem, does not have a practical application today. The article was an intriguing description about a feature in the human body that is the center of debate between scientists. It also shows how science is flexible and can be changed so that people can consider new ides.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    12/09/2015 - 11:13 p.m.

    I didn't know much about the good viruses in our body. There are more bacteria in our body than the outside. These bacteria are actually helpful and can help prevent illnesses, help digest food, and manufacture vitamins. When harmful bacteria enter the body, then it has a chance to wipe out the good bacteria. The appendix is like a place where the good bacteria could stay until the illness is over. I didn't know that about the appendix. Today, you can live fine without your appendix because of technology but it is still helpful to have an appendix.

  • carlosp-6-bar
    12/09/2015 - 11:16 p.m.

    We are able to live without an appendix today because we have bacteria inside us that kills off other bad bacteria and it helps our immune system and many more things and helps us a lot as it states in paragraph seven "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 we do need it for long term because sometimes the invading bacteria gets the best of us and then when the bad and the good bacteria finish the so call "war" thats when the appendix kicks in and then it reclaims your body and helps it be stable and better as it states in paragraphs eight, nine, ten, and eleven "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."
    I think this is a cool article because I have wonder why we have an appendix and this article showed me why and this can help people understand more about there own bodies.

    • akarshs-mor
      12/21/2015 - 09:31 p.m.

      I really liked your answer, I liked how you used direct quotes and explained them. Great Job!

  • dylana-Orv
    12/10/2015 - 01:23 p.m.

    that is so cool about how scientist some times get it wrong

  • maxwellc-3-bar
    12/10/2015 - 04:12 p.m.

    we are able to live without an appendix today because it 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 don't need it to live, however, we can use it to keep us much healthier than people who do not have it. I think this should be double checked before it is completely believed.

  • jennac-orv
    12/10/2015 - 06:57 p.m.

    We are able to live without an appendix; because today’s modern technology and modern sewage systems have largely done away with diseases like cholera and dysentery.

  • olivias-ver
    12/10/2015 - 08:59 p.m.

    This article was interesting at first, but then when they started to explain how the system worked using the " apartment " idea really helped me understand this a lot more than i probably would have if they didn't say that.

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