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Why don’t humans have gills?

Imagine 375 million years ago, a quirky fish named Tiktaalik taking its first wobbly steps on land, using its fin-like limbs to explore and primitive lungs to breathe air. This fish, sporting both gills and lungs, is hailed as the earliest ancestor of creatures with four legs, including humans.

But why don’t humans have gills if we evolved from fish? Well, it’s all about practicality. Gills need to be moist to function, which isn’t ideal for land-dwellers like us. Instead, our lungs efficiently extract oxygen from the air, making breathing on land a breeze.

Interestingly, our fishy forebears already had lungs alongside gills. Those with lungs had a leg up (pun intended) when it came to life on land, eventually evolving into the diverse array of land animals we see today. Similarly, those arm-like structures our ancestors used to scoot along the ocean floor? They turned out to be quite handy for navigating land, too.

While the exact evolution of human lungs is still a bit murky, evidence suggests they evolved from simpler lungs found in early reptiles. Over time, as animals adapted to terrestrial life, gills became obsolete and eventually disappeared.

But even though we’ve bid adieu to our gills, human embryos still give a nod to our aquatic origins with tiny structures called pharyngeal arches. These remnants of our fishy past develop into various parts of the head, serving as a reminder of our evolutionary journey.

In essence, our transition from fish to land-dwelling mammals is a testament to the incredible adaptability of life, shaping us into the beings we are today.

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