A small percentage of the human population was born with an extra hole above their ear. It's so tiny that if you aren't looking for it, you might just miss it. If you do notice it, you might mistake it for a piercing. But there's a name for this feature, and it's preauricular sinus.
Preauricular sinus, commonly referred to as an ear pit or an auricular fistula, is a congenital malformation, meaning that those who have it are born with it. It may appear on both or both sides. The good news is that it's harmless. Those who have it, however, should be extra careful because the area is vulnerable to infection.
Neil Shubin, an evolutionary biologist, paleontologist, and popular science writer hypothesizes that the holes "could be evolutionary remnant of fish gills."
Here are some photos and details of preauricular sinuses. Do you know anyone that has this dimple?
Some distinctive features such as large eyes or lips are praised in the media. Others like thick eyebrows or gap teeth are praised and ridiculed, depending on the trends. And then there's another category of distinctive features that don't get talked about enough—things like malformations and deformities.
This congenital malformation can be found between the ear and the face. The first known documentation of it was in 1864 by Van Heusinger.
Ear pits occur in 1 out of every 12,500 births. They are found in 4 to 10 percent of people in parts of Asia and Africa. It affects about 0.1 percent of Americans and 0.9 percent of people in the UK.
"My husband has on both ears and now our daughter has on one ear. I think it kinda makes them special," said one woman.
Some individuals, however, may face infections or the formation of a cyst. "An infection arises in cases of preauricular sinus when the opening of the pit seals bacteria within the sinus tract along with desquamated skin," Emedicine reports. Drainage may be necessary. In more serious cases, surgical removal may be recommended.
Neil Shubin is a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist whose research is focused on the evolution of new organs. He believes that these holes are remnants of fish gills.
In an interview with PBS, Shubin explains why he wrote the book. "In 2004, when we discovered Tiktaalik, I realized it wasn't some esoteric fossil from an odd moment in time. It's part of our own history. Its story is linked to our own, and that story is profound."
"Then, in 2005, my knee blew out and I was stuck in bed for three days. I grabbed a notebook — with my knee on ice, laughing to myself that I had my inner fish to thank — and one thing led to another," he continued.
What do you think of his hypothesis?
Next, 23 freaky facts about the human body.