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Table 1.

Examples of biological structures that scientists have identified as vestigial in primary scientific journal articles published in the 21st century. N = no function listed by author(s). U = useless structure according to author(s).

TaxonStructureStructure’s Function in Unreduced StateStructure’s Function in Vestigial StateReference(s)
Unicellular Organisms 
Amoebozoa 
Entamoeba histolytica mitochondria ATP synthesis Regoes et al., 2005  
Apicomplexa 
Cryptosporidium parvum mitochondria ATP synthesis Regoes et al., 2005  
Plasmodium falciparum chloroplast photosynthesis Sekiguchi et al., 2002  
Toxoplasma gondii chloroplast photosynthesis Sekiguchi et al., 2002  
Diplomonadida 
Giardia lamblia mitochondria ATP synthesis Fe-S cluster synthesis Regoes et al., 2005  
Euglenozoa 
Astasia longa chloroplast photosynthesis Sekiguchi et al., 2002  
Fungi 
Trachipleistophora humanis mitochondria ATP synthesis Regoes et al., 2005  
Heterokontophyta 
Anthophysa vegetans chloroplast photosynthesis Sekiguchi et al., 2002  
Blastocystis humanis mitochondria ATP synthesis Regoes et al., 2005  
Ciliophrys infusionum chloroplast photosynthesis Sekiguchi et al., 2002  
Pteridomonas danica chloroplast photosynthesis Sekiguchi et al., 2002  
Paraphysomonas chloroplast photosynthesis Sekiguchi et al., 2002  
Spumella chloroplast photosynthesis Sekiguchi et al., 2002  
Multicellular Organisms 
Plantae 
some Arecoideae (a subfamily of palms) male flowers pollen production Ortega-Chávez & Stauffer, 2011  
Gethyum and Gilliesia (South American allioids) stamens pollen production Rudall et al., 2002  
Schiedea (Hawaiian schiedeas) stamens pollen production Golonka et al., 2005  
Consolea spinosissima (a cactus) androecium [in female plants] pollen production Strittmatter et al., 2002  
Consolea spinosissima (a cactus) gynoecium [in male plants] sperm reception; ovule and fruit production Strittmatter et al., 2002  
Fragaria virginiana (strawberry) stamens pollen production Ashman, 2003  
Nemophila menziesii (Baby Blue-eyes) anthers pollen production Gomez & Shaw, 2006  
Penstemon centranthifolius (Scarlet Bugler) and P. rostriflorus (Beakflower Penstemon) stamen pollen production Walker-Larsen & Harder, 2001  
Penstemon ellipticus (Rocky Ledge Penstemon) stamen pollen production increases duration of pollinators’ visits by hindering nectar access Walker-Larsen & Harder, 2001  
Penstemon palmeri (Palmer’s Penstemon) stamen pollen production acts as a lever that increases stigma contact with pollinator Walker-Larsen & Harder, 2001  
Epifagus americana (Beechdrops) chloroplasts photosynthesis Sekiguchi et al., 2002  
Bryozoa 
Calloporidae (a bryozoan family) ooecium protects brood chamber Ostrovsky et al., 2006  
Mollusca 
Dolabifera dolabifera (a sea hare) ink gland defensive ink production algal pigment storage Prince & Johnson, 2006  
Octopus vulgaris (common octopus) shell external protection Napoleão et al., 2005  
Teuthida (squid) phragmocone buoyancy muscle and fin attachment Arkhipkin et al., 2012  
Arthropoda 
Cirripedia (barnacles) abdomen multiple functions Blin et al., 2003  
Carabus solieri (a ground beetle) hind wings flight Garnier et al., 2006  
Formidicae (ants) [workers] spermathecae sperm storage Bowsher et al., 2007; Gotoh et al., 2013  
Formicidae [workers of most species] wing imaginal discs wing production Bowsher et al., 2007  
Diacamma (a genus of wingless ants) [workers] wings flight social display of reproductive status Miura, 2005  
Apis cerana (eastern honeybee) and A. mellifera (European honeybee) [workers] spermathecae sperm storage Gotoh et al., 2012 
Lepidoptera larvae (caterpillars) crop food storage defensive regurgitation Grant, 2006  
Chondrichthyes 
Orectolobus maculatus (wobbegong shark) complementarity-determining region of IgNAR antibody adhesion to antigen Streltsov et al., 2004  
Actinopterygii 
Actinopterygii vertebral arches of posterior tail muscle attachment Bensimon-Brito et al., 2012  
Acipenseriformes (paddlefishes and sturgeons) pulmonary artery blood transport to gas bladder blood transport elsewhere Longo et al., 2013  
Astyanax mexicanus (blind cavefish) eyes vision regulation of circadian rhythms Espinasa & Jeffery, 2006; Franz-Odendaal & Hall, 2006; Yoshizawa & Jeffery, 2008  
Echidna nebulosa (snowflake moray) and Muraena retifera (reticulate moray) pectoral girdle support for pectoral fin Mehta & Wainwright, 2007  
Actinistia 
Latimeria (coelacanths) lung gas exchange Longo et al., 2013  
Latimeria pulmonary vein blood transport from lung to heart Longo et al., 2013  
Amphibia 
Plethodon cinereus (red-backed salamander) and Eurycea (brook salamanders) fourth epibranchial gill support Kerney et al., 2012  
Sirenidae (legless salamanders) pectoral girdle forelimb support Bejder & Hall, 2002  
Gegenophis ramaswamii (a caecilian) fourth epibranchial gill support Müller et al., 2005  
Squamata 
Pygopodidae (flap-footed lizards) hindlimbs locomotion Brandley et al., 2008  
Ophisaurus apodus (European legless lizard) hindlimbs locomotion Bejder & Hall, 2002; Brandley et al., 2008  
Bipes (a genus of worm lizarda) pelvic girdle hindlimb support Kearney, 2002  
Bipes hindlimbs locomotion Kearney, 2002  
Rhineura floridana (Florida worm lizard) eyes vision Kearney et al., 2005  
Rhineura floridana jugal bone forms lower border of eye socket Kearney et al., 2005  
Blanus (a genus of worm lizards) hindlimbs locomotion Kearney, 2002  
Feylinia (a skink genus) sternum forelimb muscle attachment Kearney, 2002  
Jarujinia bipedalis (a skink species) forelimbs locomotion Chan-ard et al., 2001  
some Serpentes (snakes) hindlimbs locomotion Kearney, 2002; Brandley et al., 2008  
Aves 
Apterygidae (kiwis), Casuariidae (cassowaries), and Dromaiidae (emus) wings flight Maxwell & Larsson, 2007  
Mammalia 
Cetacea (whales) pelvic girdle braces hindlimb against vertebral column support for reproductive organs Bejder & Hall, 2002; Simões-Lopes & Gutstein, 2004  
Mysticeti (baleen whales) hindlimbs locomotion Bejder & Hall, 2002  
Odontoceti (toothed whales) olfactory receptor subgenomes genes for olfactory receptors McGowen et al., 2008  
Monodon monoceros (narwhal) molariform teeth food processing Nweeia et al., 2012  
Felidae (cat family) clavicle braces scapula against sternum Hartstone-Rose et al., 2012  
Mus musculus (house mouse) incisor tooth bud production of incisor Peterková et al., 2002, 2006  
Spalax ehrengergi (Middle East blind mole rat) retina image formation regulation of circadian rhythms Zubidat et al., 2010  
Primates (primates) Harderian gland eye socket lubrication Rehorek & Smith, 2006  
Perodicticus potto (potto) index finger prehension Tague, 2002  
Ateles geoffroyi (Geoffroy’s spider monkey) and Colobus guereza (mantled guereza) thumb prehension Tague, 2002  
Catarrhini (humans, apes, and Old World monkeys) vomeronasal organ pheromone reception Liman & Innan, 2003; Zhang & Webb, 2003  
Homo sapiens (humans) sinus hair muscle whisker movement Tamatsu et al., 2007  
TaxonStructureStructure’s Function in Unreduced StateStructure’s Function in Vestigial StateReference(s)
Unicellular Organisms 
Amoebozoa 
Entamoeba histolytica mitochondria ATP synthesis Regoes et al., 2005  
Apicomplexa 
Cryptosporidium parvum mitochondria ATP synthesis Regoes et al., 2005  
Plasmodium falciparum chloroplast photosynthesis Sekiguchi et al., 2002  
Toxoplasma gondii chloroplast photosynthesis Sekiguchi et al., 2002  
Diplomonadida 
Giardia lamblia mitochondria ATP synthesis Fe-S cluster synthesis Regoes et al., 2005  
Euglenozoa 
Astasia longa chloroplast photosynthesis Sekiguchi et al., 2002  
Fungi 
Trachipleistophora humanis mitochondria ATP synthesis Regoes et al., 2005  
Heterokontophyta 
Anthophysa vegetans chloroplast photosynthesis Sekiguchi et al., 2002  
Blastocystis humanis mitochondria ATP synthesis Regoes et al., 2005  
Ciliophrys infusionum chloroplast photosynthesis Sekiguchi et al., 2002  
Pteridomonas danica chloroplast photosynthesis Sekiguchi et al., 2002  
Paraphysomonas chloroplast photosynthesis Sekiguchi et al., 2002  
Spumella chloroplast photosynthesis Sekiguchi et al., 2002  
Multicellular Organisms 
Plantae 
some Arecoideae (a subfamily of palms) male flowers pollen production Ortega-Chávez & Stauffer, 2011  
Gethyum and Gilliesia (South American allioids) stamens pollen production Rudall et al., 2002  
Schiedea (Hawaiian schiedeas) stamens pollen production Golonka et al., 2005  
Consolea spinosissima (a cactus) androecium [in female plants] pollen production Strittmatter et al., 2002  
Consolea spinosissima (a cactus) gynoecium [in male plants] sperm reception; ovule and fruit production Strittmatter et al., 2002  
Fragaria virginiana (strawberry) stamens pollen production Ashman, 2003  
Nemophila menziesii (Baby Blue-eyes) anthers pollen production Gomez & Shaw, 2006  
Penstemon centranthifolius (Scarlet Bugler) and P. rostriflorus (Beakflower Penstemon) stamen pollen production Walker-Larsen & Harder, 2001  
Penstemon ellipticus (Rocky Ledge Penstemon) stamen pollen production increases duration of pollinators’ visits by hindering nectar access Walker-Larsen & Harder, 2001  
Penstemon palmeri (Palmer’s Penstemon) stamen pollen production acts as a lever that increases stigma contact with pollinator Walker-Larsen & Harder, 2001  
Epifagus americana (Beechdrops) chloroplasts photosynthesis Sekiguchi et al., 2002  
Bryozoa 
Calloporidae (a bryozoan family) ooecium protects brood chamber Ostrovsky et al., 2006  
Mollusca 
Dolabifera dolabifera (a sea hare) ink gland defensive ink production algal pigment storage Prince & Johnson, 2006  
Octopus vulgaris (common octopus) shell external protection Napoleão et al., 2005  
Teuthida (squid) phragmocone buoyancy muscle and fin attachment Arkhipkin et al., 2012  
Arthropoda 
Cirripedia (barnacles) abdomen multiple functions Blin et al., 2003  
Carabus solieri (a ground beetle) hind wings flight Garnier et al., 2006  
Formidicae (ants) [workers] spermathecae sperm storage Bowsher et al., 2007; Gotoh et al., 2013  
Formicidae [workers of most species] wing imaginal discs wing production Bowsher et al., 2007  
Diacamma (a genus of wingless ants) [workers] wings flight social display of reproductive status Miura, 2005  
Apis cerana (eastern honeybee) and A. mellifera (European honeybee) [workers] spermathecae sperm storage Gotoh et al., 2012 
Lepidoptera larvae (caterpillars) crop food storage defensive regurgitation Grant, 2006  
Chondrichthyes 
Orectolobus maculatus (wobbegong shark) complementarity-determining region of IgNAR antibody adhesion to antigen Streltsov et al., 2004  
Actinopterygii 
Actinopterygii vertebral arches of posterior tail muscle attachment Bensimon-Brito et al., 2012  
Acipenseriformes (paddlefishes and sturgeons) pulmonary artery blood transport to gas bladder blood transport elsewhere Longo et al., 2013  
Astyanax mexicanus (blind cavefish) eyes vision regulation of circadian rhythms Espinasa & Jeffery, 2006; Franz-Odendaal & Hall, 2006; Yoshizawa & Jeffery, 2008  
Echidna nebulosa (snowflake moray) and Muraena retifera (reticulate moray) pectoral girdle support for pectoral fin Mehta & Wainwright, 2007  
Actinistia 
Latimeria (coelacanths) lung gas exchange Longo et al., 2013  
Latimeria pulmonary vein blood transport from lung to heart Longo et al., 2013  
Amphibia 
Plethodon cinereus (red-backed salamander) and Eurycea (brook salamanders) fourth epibranchial gill support Kerney et al., 2012  
Sirenidae (legless salamanders) pectoral girdle forelimb support Bejder & Hall, 2002  
Gegenophis ramaswamii (a caecilian) fourth epibranchial gill support Müller et al., 2005  
Squamata 
Pygopodidae (flap-footed lizards) hindlimbs locomotion Brandley et al., 2008  
Ophisaurus apodus (European legless lizard) hindlimbs locomotion Bejder & Hall, 2002; Brandley et al., 2008  
Bipes (a genus of worm lizarda) pelvic girdle hindlimb support Kearney, 2002  
Bipes hindlimbs locomotion Kearney, 2002  
Rhineura floridana (Florida worm lizard) eyes vision Kearney et al., 2005  
Rhineura floridana jugal bone forms lower border of eye socket Kearney et al., 2005  
Blanus (a genus of worm lizards) hindlimbs locomotion Kearney, 2002  
Feylinia (a skink genus) sternum forelimb muscle attachment Kearney, 2002  
Jarujinia bipedalis (a skink species) forelimbs locomotion Chan-ard et al., 2001  
some Serpentes (snakes) hindlimbs locomotion Kearney, 2002; Brandley et al., 2008  
Aves 
Apterygidae (kiwis), Casuariidae (cassowaries), and Dromaiidae (emus) wings flight Maxwell & Larsson, 2007  
Mammalia 
Cetacea (whales) pelvic girdle braces hindlimb against vertebral column support for reproductive organs Bejder & Hall, 2002; Simões-Lopes & Gutstein, 2004  
Mysticeti (baleen whales) hindlimbs locomotion Bejder & Hall, 2002  
Odontoceti (toothed whales) olfactory receptor subgenomes genes for olfactory receptors McGowen et al., 2008  
Monodon monoceros (narwhal) molariform teeth food processing Nweeia et al., 2012  
Felidae (cat family) clavicle braces scapula against sternum Hartstone-Rose et al., 2012  
Mus musculus (house mouse) incisor tooth bud production of incisor Peterková et al., 2002, 2006  
Spalax ehrengergi (Middle East blind mole rat) retina image formation regulation of circadian rhythms Zubidat et al., 2010  
Primates (primates) Harderian gland eye socket lubrication Rehorek & Smith, 2006  
Perodicticus potto (potto) index finger prehension Tague, 2002  
Ateles geoffroyi (Geoffroy’s spider monkey) and Colobus guereza (mantled guereza) thumb prehension Tague, 2002  
Catarrhini (humans, apes, and Old World monkeys) vomeronasal organ pheromone reception Liman & Innan, 2003; Zhang & Webb, 2003  
Homo sapiens (humans) sinus hair muscle whisker movement Tamatsu et al., 2007  
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