Recently increased prevalence of the human median artery of the forearm: A microevolutionary change

Teghan Lucas, Jaliya Kumaratilake, Maciej Henneberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The median artery has been considered as an embryonic structure, which normally regresses around the 8th week of gestation. However, various prevalences have been reported in adults since the 18th century. Furthermore, in a study by Henneberg and George (1995; Am J Phys Anthropol 96, 329–334), has suggested that increasing prevalence of the median artery during the 20th century was a ‘possible secular trend’. The present study, conducted nearly a quarter of a century later, is a continuation of that study. A total of 26 median arteries were found in 78 upper limbs obtained from Australians aged 51 to 101 years, who died in the period 2015–2016, a prevalence rate of 33.3%. Analysis of the literature showed that the presence of the median artery has been significantly increasing (p =.001) over time, from approximately 10% in people born in the mid-1880s to approximately 30% by the end of the 20th century. The significance of the prevalence increased to a p value <.0001, when the results of the present study and other studies conducted by our research team were combined. After removal of the studies that were possibly biased, because of their specific focus on the evolutionary aspects of the median artery, the significance remained at p =.018. The present study provides an example of microevolutionary changes in the internal anatomy of the human body. Second-order polynomial regression of the median artery's prevalence on dates of birth shows that it is now present in 35% of people and predicts that people born 80 years from now will all carry a median artery if the trend continues. When the median artery prevalence reaches 50% or more, it should not be considered as a variant, but as a ‘normal’ human structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)623-631
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number4
Early online date10 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • anatomical variation
  • median artery
  • microevolution
  • secular trend


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