Posted by: Rob Lester | July 2, 2010

The Marvelous Design of Earwax

There is a very important purpose to this waxy, brownish-yellow substance called cerumenEarwax protects the ear by trapping dust particles, bacteria, fungal spores, sand, and dirt, preventing them from entering inner recesses and possibly damaging the ear. If these particles do gain a “foothold,” disease-causing micro-organisms (e.g., E. coli) are subject to a veritable smorgasbord of defensive compounds and antibodies.  But not only does earwax attract and trap debris –its bitterness also repels insects, mites, and other creatures.  As skin cells age, they cornify (convert to keratin) and are sloughed off. God designed the old, keratinized skin cells of the ear canal to peel off in a “c” shape  –unlike the flattened skin cells on the rest of the body–so they will either literally roll out of the auditory canal (termed “epithelial migration”) aided by the movement of the jaw, or will more easily become trapped in the cerumen.  Did earwax and the complex antimicrobial molecules within it, along with the unique manner in which old cells slough off, come about through time, chance, and natural processes? Or does it sound more like well-planned design?

Sherwin, F. 2009. The Wax That Taxes Darwin. Acts & Facts. 38 (1): 12.

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