Phil Senter, Zenis Ambrocio, Julia B. Andrade, Katanya K. Foust, Jasmine E. Gaston, Ryshonda P. Lewis, Rachel M. Liniewski, Bobby A. Ragin, Khanna L. Robinson, Shane G. Stanley
The American Biology Teacher 77 (2), 99-106, (1 February 2015) https://doi.org/10.1525/abt.2015.77.2.4
KEYWORDS: Vestigial structures, vestigial organs, evolution, creationism, primary scientific literature
Lists of vestigial biological structures in biology textbooks are so short that some young-Earth creationist authors claim that scientists have lost confidence in the existence of vestigial structures and can no longer identify any verifiable ones. We tested these hypotheses with a method that is easily adapted to biology classes. We used online search engines to find examples of 21st-century articles in primary scientific literature in which biological structures are identified as vestigial. Our results falsify these creationist hypotheses and show that scientists currently identify many structures as vestigial in animals, plants, and single-celled organisms. Examples include not only organs but also cells, organelles, and parts of molecules. Having students repeat this study will give them experience with hypothesis testing, introduce them to primary scientific articles, and further their education on vestigial structures.