I don't know about you, but now that the idiotic race to announce the mapping of the human genome has been run, I'm impatient for the advantages this feat will bring. Sure, you can talk about curing disease and identifying potential birth defects, but come on, I want the gravy, baby. Bodmods are the wave of the future, and if this doesn't let us do those, what've we been wasting our money on?

The first mod I plan to look for, K-mart shoppers, is a tail. I want a tail. I want a prehensile tail. Think of how useful that would be. Two-fisting beers and you're still able to open the door, fridge, whatever. Think of those moments when you're rewiring the IDE cabling on an infernally cramped minitower (thanks Dell), and while holding back one cable set and trying to plug in the other by touch still being able to hold a flashlight.

Now admittedly, such an option would be possible to abuse. Frottage in public places on unsuspecting victims. Pickpocketing. Cheating at cards (see Londo Mollari and Centauri genitalia for more information). However, on the whole, I believe good, clean fun would be the result of the availability of tails.

This would necessitate some changes in fashion, but in general they'd be easy to deal with. The simple addition of tail slits in most trousers and skirts would be sufficient. More difficult would be chairs, but office chairs with separate back units are fine, and armchairs would just have to be soft enough to curl your tail around to the front without it falling asleep. Car seats are probably the most difficult; however, a lumbar support device with a cavity in it for the tail to curl up in would be a fine interim solution.

Of course, the marketing aspect is huge! I would want a furred tail, akin to a cat, but perhaps that could be an option! You could have a naked tail (better for fine manipulation), or a scaly tail (martial artists are the target market for that one), or even a slick, tentacle-like tail (no tentacle porn jokes, please) for use underwater. Colors could be varied as well; get one that matches your favorite wardrobe! Get one that has your school colors on it! Etc. etc.

Communication of emotions would become so much easier. Think of the eloquence a cat has concerning its mood just through the use of the tail. Feeling threatened or angry? Fluff up the fur on it (if you have fur) or just lash it angrily. Need to signal a friend across the room to meet you at the bar? Point with it. Want to walk down the street with a loved one? Holding hands, pshaw! Hold hands and wrap tails! Out shopping with the kids? "Hold onto my tail, dear, don't get lost."

All in all, I think that tails would be a fine addition to the form the Universe, Evolution or God (whatever your preference) has blessed us with. Now, I want mine prehensile, but perhaps there could be a budget dog-style tail, use just for emotional display. Those would be harder to adjust to seats, but who knows? If you're a dog lover, maybe you'd want to go for this to become closer to your furry friends. Have a parrot/parakeet? Have 'em sit on the tip of your tail, maybe around shoulder level.

If you're really in shape, maybe you could do tail-ups as exercise! Hang from a bar and lift yourself! Use dumbbells for strength training. Just in case of emergency, use your tail to hold on while reaching over a drop-off to help others! Of course, it would be possible to go overboard with this.

You can see how useful these would be, though. Now that we've mapped the DNA sequence of the human, I expect the first availability would be as 'pre-mods' for your children...however, I bet they'll be able to grow you a tail for later implantation using your own DNA to assure a tissue match. And say, while we're on that, maybe I want cat fur on my arms...

The thing about human tails is whether it'd be a thick and muscular - and prehensile - tail, or if it'd be a useless piggish tail.

I think a human tail would be naked, just like the rest of us. There's no reason to believe that it'd be furry, only hairy, like a butt. Think about it - the sleek, soft and smooth tail of a woman, and the hairier and rougher tail of a man. I don't think it would be strong like a kangaroo's, but rather thin and bony, much like a that of a cat. Perhaps it would be monkey-like - pretty useful, even for grasping - but I doubt it. The human species haven't lived a life that depend on tails. It would probably be short on children but longer on adults, maybe all the way down to the ground.

  • People would pierce their tails.
  • People would tease each other, pulling tails.
  • People would accidentally step on your tail.
  • Cars would hit your tail.
  • Tails would get stuck in elevator doors.
  • Tails would be good for keeping your balance
  • Most sports would have special rules concerning tails - pulling, screening and tripping.

I don't believe the precise the genetic basis for tail growth is known, but I'd say the best bet is Hox (homeobox) genes. Mutations in these genes cause alterations in the development of the axial skeleton (vertebral column and ribs) and limbs, among other things. They are conserved across all animal phyla, with similar or homologous functions. To give you a tail, I'd have to know the exact pattern of expression of the correct gene(s) and how to achieve it by artificially engineering promoter-gene fusions and inserting them into the genome of an embryo.

There are a few problems with this. First, very little is known about the exact control mechanisms of Hox genes, or how they interact synergistically to produce the animal's body. I'd have to do a lot of experiments on mice and/or apes, and there'd be a lot of nasty messes produced - horrid things with deformities too hideous to describe, which would die in utero if they were lucky. Then I'd have to try it with human embryos.

Secondly, you may notice I said embryos. Unless your body works a lot differently from those of most mammals, causing it to grow a tail in adulthood would require a lot more genetic engineering, probably using tailored retroviruses or tissue engineering. Making it functional is a whole other problem - your brain is not really developed to control a tail. Do I have to alter it too?

In conclusion, this molecular biologist says: "Go the cybernetic route, it's a lot easier!"

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