Did you think humans reached their final form and stopped evolving? If so, it turns out you were wrong. Researchers in Australia recently published a study that provides concrete proof of the recent appearance of an extra artery in our arms. Though evolution is so slow that it is hard to notice changes within one lifetime, these exciting findings prove that humans constantly develop.
The median artery is the main vessel that supplies blood to the human forearm while in the womb. However, it typically disappears around the eighth week of gestation, or once two other arteries develop. The researchers wanted to look into the prevalence of this artery sticking around after birth, and what they learned was remarkable. When studying the cadavers of 80 Australians of European descent, ranging in age from 50 to 100 years old, the study demonstrated a steady increase in adults with this third artery intact.
“Since the 18th century, anatomists have been studying the prevalence of this artery in adults and our study shows it’s clearly increasing,” stated Dr. Teghan Lucas of Flinders University. “The prevalence was around 10% in people born in the mid-1880s compared to 30% in those born in the late 20th century, so that’s a significant increase in a fairly short period of time when it comes to evolution.”
The scientists predict that people born 80 years from now will all carry a median artery if the trend continues. It would be considered a “normal human structure” once it becomes prevalent in more than 50% of adults.
“This is microevolution in modern humans and the median artery is a perfect example of how we’re still evolving because people born more recently have a higher prevalence of this artery when compared to humans from previous generations,” explained the senior author of the study Professor Maciej Henneberg.
While the presence of the median artery can be a risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome, Henneberg claims it offers benefits as well. Not only could this additional artery increase blood supply, but it can also be used as a replacement in surgical procedures in other parts of the body.
This is not the first anatomical evolutionary change to be recognized in recent years. Previous examples include the increasing absence of wisdom teeth and the resurgence of the fabella, a small bone in the back of the knee joint. Similarly to the median artery, the fabella is now three times more common in humans than it was a hundred years ago. According to Dr. Lucas, modern humans are currently evolving at a faster rate than at any point in the past 250 years. The prospects for future developments are certainly fascinating.
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