12 February 2017

My "elfin ear" is actually a "Darwin's point"

Darwin’s point is found in the majority of mammals, and humans are no exception. It is most likely used to help focus sounds in animals, but it no longer has a function in humans. Only 10.4% of the human population still has this visible left-over mark of our past, but it is possible that a much larger number of people carry the gene that produces it as it does not always cause the ear tubercle to appear. The point is a small thick nodule at the junction of the upper and middle sections of the ear.
Since the "plica semilunaris" is vestigial structure and therefore a sign of evolution, I'm delighted to display it. Darwin described it as a "surviving symbol of the stirring times and dangerous days of man's animal youth."

As a child I wasn't aware that I had it until I first went to school and some children began to tease me about my pointy ear. My mom advised me to tell them it was my "extra brain power" (which I'm sure failed to impress first-graders). For children nowadays such a rationale would not be necessary; indeed an "elfin ear" would be a mark of prestige - one which some body-modifying teens (?Goths) try to attain by plastic surgery.

Link found at The Presurfer; thanks Gerard.

Reposted from 2009 to add this rather impressive example of a vestigial structure:
A teenager with a 20cm "tail" growing at the bottom of his spine has undergone surgery to have it removed. It started to appear on the 18-year-old's back just after his 14th birthday...

"It was cosmetically and psychologically disturbing for him." Although surgically removing a tail isn't a very complicated procedure, it must be carried out by a neurosurgeon as the growth of tail involves a part of the spinal cord. 
Via Nothing to do with Arbroath.

Reposted from 2016 in recognition of Darwin Day.


  1. Elf ears = super cool. Had no idea about the Darwinian connection either, so thanks for sharing. And by the way, after coming across your website, it's become one of the few that I check every day. Thanks for all the interesting stories!

  2. Interesting. I just had a look in the mirror, and discovered that my right ear is an elfin ear, but my left ear isn't. Does that mean I'm only partly evolved?

    1. As far as I know half-elves are resistant to sleep and charm magic, have infravision, and are able to locate secret doors and portals.

      : )


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