Top 10 Unsolved Mysteries About the Human Body



Top 10 Unsolved Mysteries About the Human Body

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio WRITTEN BY: Whitney Wilson
Humans are weird. Full stop. For this list, we'll be looking at the most bewildering human innate behaviours, body parts, and attributes that scientists have yet to explain. Our countdown includes Yawning, Blood Types, Microbes, and more!

Top 10 Unsolved Mysteries About the Human Body

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Unsolved Mysteries About the Human Body.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most bewildering human innate behaviours, body parts, and attributes that scientists have yet to explain.

What’s your favorite medical mystery? Be sure to share with us in the comments below!

#10: Yawning

Considering how contagious yawning is, you’d think scientists would have cracked the mystery behind it ages ago. It can spread via watching videos, and across various species, yet the enigma remains unsolved. Some speculate that yawning helps balance our brain’s temperature. Another theory suggests that it awakens the body by stimulating both our heart rate and the muscles in our eyes. A third hypothesis states that exhaustion and boredom lead to shallow breaths. Thus, yawning is our bodies’ clever way of trading in carbon dioxide for oxygen. While science can’t fully explain the process, we do know it signifies that it might be time for a nap.

#9: Dominant Hands

From using chopsticks to picking a desk at school, our dominant hands play a pretty big part in our lives. While the vast majority of people are right-handed, about a tenth of the world is left-handed. Still, scientists aren’t sure what determines whether a person will be a leftie or a rightie. However, our environment might have something to do with it. In other words, there might be more natural southpaws in the world than we realize. They’ve just been conditioned otherwise by authority figures who forbid left-handed writing. Of course, there are the rare ambidextrous people who can sit at any school desk they want. They’re the lucky ones!

#8: Appendix

Long seen as more of an annoyance than a necessity, the purpose of the appendix is quite puzzling. After all, people get them removed every day without any major lasting consequences - other than a cool new scar! While biologists aren’t exactly sure why we have appendixes, a few possibilities have emerged from research and hypothesizing. Some scientists believe the organ might actually help train our immune systems in utero. But perhaps the most promising theory is that it accommodates “good bacteria” that help us digest properly. All we really know is that while the appendix may be tiny, it’s filled with tons of mystery!

#7: Fingerprints

Our fingerprints are one of the most truly unique features we possess. Even identical twins and triplets don’t share the same pattern of loops, swirls, ridges and lines! Thanks to their amazing one-of-a-kind properties, these impressions play a crucial role in identification and crime-solving practices. Despite their importance to the justice system - and our phones - no one really knows why we have fingerprints in the first place. Some scientists believe that they affect the intensity with which we experience touch. Yet others believe they act as a defensive shield. Either way, there’s no denying they’re useful in many aspects of modern life.

#6: Breasts

Like their fellow mammals, human beings use breasts to nourish their young. However, human bosoms are different, as they tend to remain swollen. Scientists aren’t quite sure why humans consistently have larger breasts. A handful of evolutionary biologists think they might play a part in attracting mates. However, considering the wide range of tastes that exist when it comes to body types, this isn’t a universally accepted theory. Another hypothesis popularized by journalist Florence Williams speculates that larger breasts might ease lactation and add fat to breast milk. Despite society’s bizarre obsession with big busts, they still hold a lot of mystery!

#5: Blood Types

A person’s blood type is crucial in many different contexts, such as certain medical procedures. What’s more, blood type may factor into long-term health issues, like memory loss and stomach cancer. While scientists believe that each blood type is uniquely equipped to fight off distinct diseases, no one really knows why. It’s possible that our ancestors developed different antigens based on the infections that were most common where they lived, and evolution took care of the rest. But that’s just one hypothesis. Plus, some people believe that the classification actually impacts our personalities. While the phenomenon of blood types remains a mystery, it’s always a good idea to know your type.

#4: Microbes

Did you know that approximately one to three percent of our body weight is composed of a variety of microbes? The average human meat suit actually plays permanent host to about 100 trillion of them! We know that many of these organisms help us out with everyday living by fighting infections, healing injuries, and promoting intestinal health. However, there are quite a few that exist for no clear-cut reason. Hopefully one day we’ll figure out what these little dudes do, but in the meantime, we’ll continue to let them hang out. After all, we don’t have much choice!

#3: Mystery Genes

As people, we have approximately 20,000 genes that make us who and what we are. Despite the fact that they’re the literal building blocks of our bodies, we don’t understand what many of them do. The ones we know the most about express a large amount of protein, which makes them simpler to examine. Yet scientists believe that many lesser-studied genes may be connected to certain diseases. Unfortunately, we probably won’t find out what purpose they all serve anytime soon, as research funding is often hard to come by. So it looks like we’ll have to wait a while for answers.

#2: Sleep & Dreams

Experts say that we should be snoozing for an average of seven to nine hours each night. Despite dedicating approximately a third of our lives to the activity, we’re not entirely sure why sleep is so important. Scientists have come up with a few theories, ranging from energy preservation to restoration to protection against nocturnal predators. Of course, when we sleep, we often dream. Some researchers believe that this is a way to sort through our everyday experiences, yet others think it’s nothing special. We may not know the exact purpose of sleep and dreams, but we’ll continue to enjoy them - for the most part!

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Scientists Don’t Know Why Being Embarrassed or Anxious Causes Us to Turn Bright Red

Sun Sneezing
Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst Is a Mystery

The Placebo Effect
Our Powerful Brains Can Trick Us, Sometimes for the Better

Taste Receptors in the Heart & Lungs
Still No Clarity Why These Organs Are Attuned to Bitter Chemicals

#1: Consciousness

The human brain contains trillions of neural connections. And they never cease to amaze - and baffle - us. Our minds can contemplate not only our very being, but also the existence of stars, nature, and the sky. Consciousness allows us to create... and to destroy. Sometimes, it makes us take twenty minutes to decide what to eat for dinner! It even keeps little copies of our life events, dubbed “memories.” There are many unknowns surrounding these mental souvenirs, and how we experience consciousness more broadly. Though these processes may be the key to understanding our place in the universe, it’s not looking like we’ll crack the case anytime soon.