You May Have an Extra Median Artery and It's a Recent Evolution

This variation increased three-folds among the human population in the last 140 years.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Natural selection! We have all heard about it but did we actually believe our species was evolving in our day and age? That is a question few ponder.

Now, a new study has come along to prove that we are and it's all thanks to research on our forearm artery. This body part, when it first appears in the mother’s womb, is responsible for supplying blood to our forearm and hand.


The artery, also known as the median artery, then disappears once two other arteries develop in adulthood. However, the new research shows that many of us now retain the median artery for our whole lives, a mysterious event that did not exist previously.

“This is micro-evolution in modern humans and the median artery is a perfect example of how we’re still evolving,” senior study author and anatomy specialist at the University of Adelaide Medical School Maciej Henneberg said in a press release, “because people born more recently have a higher prevalence of this artery when compared to humans from previous generations.”

Henneberg and her colleagues discovered that only 10% of people born in the 1880s retained their median artery. However, 30% of those born in the late 20th-century now do. 

This represents the fastest evolutionary rate for humans from the past 250 years and if it continues on the same path could soon see the majority of humans retain this physical attribute.

“This increase could have resulted from mutations of genes involved in median artery development or health problems in mothers during pregnancy, or both actually,” study coauthor Teghan Lucas, a Flinders University anatomist and archaeologist, said in the release. “If this trend continues, a majority of people will have median artery of the forearm by 2100.”

Although it's exciting to see that we are still evolving, this type of evolution may not be the best. The forearm artery has been linked with carpal tunnel syndrome.

The study is published in the Journal of Anatomy.

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