So, my question is about wisdom teeth. What exactly are
they for if all we do is get them pulled? What is their signifigance and
why hasn't evolution weeded them out of our bodies? Also, why do we get
them at such a late age?
This is a great example of structures that are in transition and that
humans are still in the process of evolving. If you compare the skull of an
ancient human, such as Neanderthals, with a modern human the jaw in the
ancient human was more massive. This probably was due to the food sources
that were available that required more force in chewing. As food sources
changed, if the jaw started becoming smaller due to mutation it wouldn't
affect survival. Remember, structures don't go away* because* they aren't
used anymore. If they DO start to change AND it doesn't affect survival it
doesn't matter. So, as the jaw became smaller, that doesn't necessarily mean
the teeth would automatically also start to go away. These are separate
structures under the control of separate genes. But that does mean that
there is not as much room in the jaw for them. Some people don't have wisdom
teeth-this would have been a disadvantage to a Neanderthal, but isn't for
Homo sapiens. I only had 3 wisdom teeth. Why do they come in later in life?
Not sure, but they are genetically programmed to do so.
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Update: June 2012