2 Aug 2013

Tail of a Pop Artist

Popular recording artist, Ke$ha announced this week that she was born with a tail. While her claim might sound absurd, there are documented cases of children who have been born with this rare condition. But did the singer really have a tail like your pet dog or cat?

Let's start with something simple: all humans have tailbones.  If you've ever slipped or fallen on an icy surface and landed hard on your bum, you might have even bruised your tailbone. Scientifically speaking your coccyx aka tailbone is the last segment of your vertebrae, or the part of your back that keeps you upright. The name coccyx  comes from the Greek word for "cuckoo" , not because you are nuts if you have a tail, but rather the bone structure looks like a bird's beak.

All humans start out life with a tail. When the human embryo is about a month old it has a small tail with 10-12 vertebrae attached to it, but by about 2 months the tail has disappeared. In the unlikely event this does not happen, a child might be born with a tail. It should be noted that this is so rare that there have only been about 40 cases reported in the medical journals.

As humans evolved, we kept a number of body parts that seem to have no useful purpose.  Our appendix, wisdom teeth, the inside corner of our eyes, and yes, the tailbone are all considered human vestigiality meaning they have lost their original function. 

While your tailbone might not be attached to an actual tail, it is part of your muscles, tendons and ligaments, which keep you supported.  When you lean backward and move your weight onto your tush,. you are using your coccyx for balance.  And without a coccyx, you might have to wear diapers as the muscles that control those functions would not be attached to anything.

If you are reading this blog in a public place, you might want to try this when you are alone. To find your coccyx put your finger down the back of your pants and find the spot where your buttock cheeks split. You should be able to feel a small bump and indentation. That's your tailbone.

As for Ke$ha's claim that she was born with this atavism, given that there are so few cases of this condition she might "coccyx" ( see above Greek word).



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