The boy born with a TAIL: Brazilian baby has 12cm-long appendage with ball on the end
- The baby was born prematurely at 35 weeks when the tail was discovered
- The growth is a rare ‘true’ human tail left behind from the one grown in the womb
- After a scan revealed no danger the tail was successfully removed by surgeons
A baby in Brazil is one of a handful to ever be born with a true human tail, doctors have revealed.
Fascinating pictures published in a medical journal show how the appendage had a ball-shaped mass on the end.
Medics surgically removed the ‘chain and ball’, which was only spotted after he was born.
All babies develop an embryonic tail in the womb between four to eight weeks after gestation, but this is normally reabsorbed back into the body.
The 12cm tail with a 4cm ball was examined by doctors shortly after the Brazilian boy was born
The tail after being removed by surgeons, an examination found it represented a rare ‘true’ human tail meaning it a remnant of the one all babies grow and usually reabsorb in the womb
But in extremely rare cases, this doesn’t happen and the tail can continue growing.
By the time he was born, the tail had grown to a whopping 12cm, and developed a 4cm diameter ball at its tip.
Doctors who examined the bay noted the tail contained no parts made of cartilage and bone, meaning it was a rare example of a true human tail.
There have only been about 40 documented cases of children being born with true, boneless, tails in history.
It is not clear if the tail was removed because it was causing the child discomfort or pain or at the request of his family.
Human ancestors, alongside our ape relatives, lost our tails when we diverged from monkeys about 20million years ago.
In some faiths and cultures, human tails are considered holy and are worshiped.
The unidentified Brazilian newborn had his tail removed at Albert Sabin Children’s Hospital in the coastal city of Fortaleza, located in the north east of the country, sometime prior to January 2021.
He was born prematurely at 35 weeks with no complications, but initial assessment of the child revealed the tail and ball growth on the end.
After an ultrasound scan revealed no concerns relating to the tail being attached to the baby’s nervous system, surgeons opted to remove the appendage but they did not detail how they did so.
The surgery, as detailed in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery Case Reports had no complications but no details of the boy’s recovery was given.
A true human tail is remnant of the one most babies grow in the womb, before it is reabsorbed into the body, forming the tailbone.
In contrast a pseudo-tail is a protrusion from the bottom of the spinal cord which is characterised by being made out of fat, cartilage and elements of bone, the doctors explained.
A post-surgery analysis of the tail found it was comprised of boneless tissue with the ball on the end being made of fat and embryonic connective tissue.
Consent to publish the case was not obtained by the authors but no information was included in the study which could lead to the identification of the child.
WHAT IS SPINA BIFIDA?
Spina bifida is a relatively common birth defect, affecting about 1,500 to 2,000 babies born in the US each year and around 700 in the UK annually.
Babies born with spina bifida have improperly formed spines and spinal cords.
During development these structures – along with the brain – all arise out of something called a neural tube, a precursor the entire central nervous system as well as the protective tissues that form around them.
Typically, this tube forms and closes by the 28th week of pregnancy.
But in babies with spina bifida, it doesn’t close properly, for reasons that are not entirely clear yet to scientists.
Instead, these babies are left with a gap in the vertebrae, through which part of the spinal cord may slip, depending the severity.
People with the mildest form of spina bifida – the occulta form – may not even know they have it.
The gap between their vertebrae is so small that the spinal cord stays in place and they are unlikely to experience any kind of neurological or motor symptoms.
In the next more severe form of the condition, called meningocele, the the protective fluid and membranes around the spinal cord are pulled through a gap into a fluid filled sack on the exterior of the baby’s back.
There’s no actual nervous tissue out of place, so there may be complications, but they’re less likely to be life altering.
But in open spina bifida, or myelomeningocele, there are larger or multiple openings along the spine.
Both the membranes and spinal nerves and tissues they’re meant to protect are pulled outside the baby at birth.
The symptoms vary wildly based on where and how severe these openings are.
Some children may develop little more than skin problems, while other with severe forms may be unable to walk or move properly, or develop infections like meningitis that can leave them with permanent brain damage.
Making sure women get plenty of folic acid in pregnancy can help ensure the spinal cord develops properly.
After birth, surgery to repair these openings may be performed and, in more recent years, some surgeons have begun repairing spina bifida in the womb.