Scientists have known for some time that the appendix isn’t just a relic of evolution that’s stuck around too long, mucking up the works of the modern human body. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center showed years ago that the oft maligned organ acts as a place of refuge for the good bacteria that keep the human digestive system ticking away like a fine Swiss clock.

But a recent study by the same researchers shows that ill understood bacterial sac may be more important and interesting than anyone ever knew. The study, recently published in The Journal of Evolutionary Biology, shows that, at 80 million years old, the appendix has been quietly plugging away at it’s inglorious work for longer than most researchers suspected. It also turns out that appendices are more common than once thought – not only do many species have them, but appendices developed independently in marsupials and mammals, suggesting that their purpose may be as important as it is poorly understood.

But all due credit to the John Paxson of the gastrointestinal tract – the thing is still a patently unpleasant bag of bacteria that’s remarkably prone to infection, and people who lose theirs seem to live happily and healthily afterwards. So if it does get infected, you need to remove the appendix. Let me repeat that for the cheap seats – you need to remove the appendix – not just say you’ve removed it and leave it inside a person like a ticking time bomb of bacteria and pus. That’s just fucked up.

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