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4 Tiny Body Parts With Really Big Jobs

4 Tiny Body Parts With Really Big Jobs

Allison Ford | Divine Caroline

November 10, 2010

It’s sometimes hard to know which parts of the human body serve a purpose and which parts don’t. Sometimes it’s obvious—feet and fingers are important, while evolutionary remnants like the appendix aren’t. Thumbs are an absolute necessity, while we could quite easily live without earlobes.

The purpose of some parts of the body, though, is a little less clear. Are they really contributing to our overall health and welfare, or are they just another bothersome area to scrub in the shower? These four body parts may seem trivial, but without them, things just wouldn’t be the same.

High Brows and Low Brows
If the eyes are the window to the soul, then the eyebrows are the curtains that frame and protect them. Eyebrows are one of our most expressive facial features—furrowed or uplifted brows leave no doubt about what we’re feeling. It’s not just their tiny swatches of hair that make eyebrows special; it’s also their shape in relation to the eye socket. Because of their arched shape, water (from rain, sweat, or other moisture) is diverted to the sides of our faces, keeping eyes dry and free from salt, debris, and other irritants.

Even though our brows are important for keeping moisture on our faces at bay, most researchers agree that we could get by without eyebrows—and plenty of people do, from alopecia sufferers to victims of overzealous tweezers. Some doctors think that if we didn’t have eyebrows at all, humans would have developed another way—very thick eyelashes, for example, or a more prominent ridge in the skull—to achieve the same purpose.

Prints Make for Sticky Fingers
They make it easier for the police to identify who committed a crime, but fingerprints also serve a vital purpose for law-abiding citizens. Scientists have long theorized that besides being a completely unique way to identify people, the ridges on our fingers are what help humans pick up and grip objects more securely. All primates have fingerprints, as do some tree-dwelling mammals, such as koalas. Some researchers think that fingerprints also help keep our fingertips dry by channeling moisture away, allowing us to maintain a grip even if our hands are wet.

Living without fingerprints would be very difficult, especially for people who work with their hands. People whose fingerprints have worn off because of burns or overuse often find that the smooth calluses that develop on the fingertips make it nearly impossible to maintain a grip on anything.

Next Page: Tough as Fingernails →

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