The grasping reflex of babies: a vestigial trait?

9 Apr

I often talk about the grasping reflex in my classes on developmental psychology and I am delighted that Jerry Coyne wrote this blog post on the subject. The great biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky famously wrote that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” It is also true that nothing in developmental psychology makes sense except in the light of evolution

Why Evolution Is True

This is the type of post I originally intended to publish on this website, and the only type of post, for the website was created, at the behest of my editor at Viking/Penguin, to support my book WEIT. My idea then was to post a bit of cool evidence for evolution every few weeks or so. Then things got out of hand. . . But today we are back to the original mission.

One of the pieces of evidence I use for evolution, in both my book and my undergraduate classes, is the presence of vestigial traits. And there are some nice behavioral ones. I wiggle my ears for my students, which they love, but I do it to demonstrate our vestigial ear muscles, useless in modern humans but adaptive in our relatives, which can move their ears widely to localize sounds. (Check out your cat when it hears something.)

Humans have another…

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