Clarification of the Term "Vestigial"

Opponents of evolution always raise the same argument when vestigial traits are cited as evidence for evolution. “The features are not useless,” they say. “They are either useful for something, or we haven’t yet discovered what they’re for.” They claim, in other words, that a trait can’t be vestigial if it still has a function, or a function yet to be found.

But this rejoinder misses the point. Evolutionary theory doesn’t say that vestigial characters have no function. A trait can be vestigial and functional at the same time. It is vestigial not because it’s functionless, but because it no longer performs the function for which it evolved. The wings of an ostrich are useful, but that doesn’t mean that they tell us nothing about evolution. Wouldn’t it be odd if a creator helped an ostrich balance itself by giving it appendages that just happen to look exactly like reduced wings, and which are constructed in exactly the same way as wings used for flying?


A trait is vestigial not because it no longer serves a purpose, but because it no longer serves its original purpose.

Folksonomies: evolution vestigial traits

/art and entertainment/visual art and design/design (0.599373)
/science/biology (0.493041)
/law, govt and politics/politics (0.378902)

vestigial characters (0.999593 (negative:-0.515870)), trait (0.872001 (negative:-0.464544)), function (0.821248 (negative:-0.515870)), ostrich balance (0.819813 (positive:0.275279)), original purpose (0.818991 (neutral:0.000000)), Evolutionary theory (0.812588 (neutral:0.000000)), wings (0.748896 (positive:0.398400)), rejoinder (0.531527 (negative:-0.881976)), Clarification (0.530962 (neutral:0.000000)), Opponents (0.523756 (negative:-0.212840)), argument (0.519671 (negative:-0.212840)), traits (0.514824 (neutral:0.000000)), evidence (0.507118 (neutral:0.000000)), Term (0.505391 (neutral:0.000000)), Vestigial\ (0.505239 (neutral:0.000000)), features (0.503736 (negative:-0.553955)), for. (0.496951 (positive:0.231445)), words (0.496612 (neutral:0.000000)), point (0.496284 (negative:-0.881976)), time (0.495219 (positive:0.233857))

Evolutionary biology (0.985255): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Evolution (0.945542): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Creationism (0.893262): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Creation–evolution controversy (0.831766): dbpedia | freebase
On the Origin of Species (0.776909): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Photosynthesis (0.743574): dbpedia | freebase

 Why Evolution Is True
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Coyne , Jerry A. (January 22, 2009), Why Evolution Is True, Penguin (Non-Classics), Retrieved on 2011-09-15
Folksonomies: evolution evidence creationism