Is a photograph of what appears to be a woman with a tail an authentic record of a real appendage, providing support for claims about the origins of white people? No, that's not true: The image was digitally edited and is a work of art. It doesn't support this conspiracy theory.
The photo appeared in a video (archived here) on TikTok on May 6, 2023, by user @lionesstoyou.
Onscreen text at the opening of the video said:
The True Origins of the White Race , Asian Race , Dravidians , Arabs , etc
Created through genetic splicing of animals
This is what it looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:
(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Wed May 17 16:03:01 2023 UTC)
It was also promoted in a shorter May 6, 2023, Facebook video, which appeared as follows at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed May 17 16:50:20 2023 UTC)
The original six-minute 10-second video contained clips of several speakers, as well as embedded captions, that amounted to a conspiracy theory about the supposed origins of the white race. As part of that, one speaker claimed, "Some white women are born with tails."
The photograph of the white woman with a "tail" did not prove anything because it was not authentic. Rather, it was the result of digital editing by a U.S.-based artist using the moniker lessthanhuman.
In a November 9, 2004, post (archived here) on the website DeviantArt.com, the artist explained that the piece, entitled "Devolution," was "manipulated with Photoshop 7.0" using "stock photography from [their] personal collection." They described the work in the following way:
A tail is a characteristic that I feel clearly represents the majority of the animal kingdom. With few exceptions, nearly all other creatures have a tail in one form or another. Developmentally, all human embryos have tails which, for the vast majority of the population, are gone by birth.
I consider the back and spine to be one of the most aesthetically beautiful parts of the human body. In this piece, I tried to preserve that beauty despite the obvious addition of a tail. This piece was an experiment. When I took the stock photo, I immediately knew what I wanted to do with it. It took me several months, however, to muster up enough patience and time to sit down and try to build a tail. I had initially set out to build a thick, reptilian-style tail but as I drew the initial shape, I felt a smaller, thinner mammalian style tail would blend in more naturally with the model's physique. The most difficult part was matching the lighting but I feel like it ended up looking pretty natural...for a tail anyway.
I also pointed the model's ear and made other minor modifications. Expect minor revisions.
Human embryos typically develop a tail-like cell mass during early development, but these almost always disappear within the first trimester of pregnancy. However, in very rare cases, babies are born with lower-back appendages known as vestigial tails.
One 2020 review in the journal Clinical Anatomy noted 195 cases since the 1880s, observing that the patients were evenly distributed among the two sexes, and their nationalities varied widely, including patients from the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, India, Israel, Turkey and China, among others.