Why do we have a tail bone if we don’t come from apes?
by Diane Eager, Lecturer Biomedical Sciences
The “tail bone” is the small triangular bone at the lower end of your back bone or vertebral column. Early anatomists thought it was shaped “like a cuckoo’s beak” they gave it the name coccyx (from the Latin for Cuckoo). They didn’t call it a tail because it doesn’t look like one.
It’s nickname of “tail bone” came from Darwin and his followers who believed it was the useless or vestigial remains of a tail, left over from monkey-like evolutionary ancestors. However, this bone is no more useless than any other bone in the body. So what does it do?
One of our editors found the answer the hard way when he tore the ligaments attached to his’ tail bone’ whilst doing sports training. He writes about the experience: “ I knew something was badly wrong when I could only walk by shuffling each leg forward using my upper body strength. If I was standing up, that’s where I preferred to stay. It was too painful to try and sit down. If I was sitting down, I didn’t want to get up – shifting position was exquisite agony.”
Medical research has shown that the muscles which help us sit or stand, all gain their ability to move us only because they are attached to our fully functional and necessary so called ‘tail bone’ which of course means that human beings do not actually have a useless or even vestigial “tail bone”! The coccyx is fully functional part of the system of bones, ligaments and muscles of the pelvis, that protects and supports the pelvic organs, and contributes to our upright stance and walking. It provides stable anchorage points for ligaments and muscles which is an essential function of all bones. Without this – we don’t move. Bones must never be considered in isolation, since they are part of an integrated musculoskeletal system that supports and protects body organs, and enables us to move…
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