Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Family That Walks on All Fours

The ad for this programme on Future TV caught my attention, but of course I "forgot" when it's gonna be shown, that's why I had to search for it on the Internet. The documentary, however, aired on March 17 on BBC2 in case you got a chance to watch it. For those who didn't, check this out:

Five siblings from Turkey who walk on all fours could provide science with an insight into human evolution, researchers have said.

The four sisters and one brother could yield clues to why our ancestors made the transition from four-legged to two-legged animals, says a UK expert.
But Professor Nicholas Humphrey rejects the idea that there is a "gene" for bipedalism, or upright walking.

Professor Humphrey, from the London School of Economics (LSE), says that our own species' transition to walking on two feet must have been a more complex process that involved many changes to the skeleton and to the human genetic make-up.
However, a German group says a genetic abnormality does seem to be involved in the siblings' gait.

Coordination problem

Three of the sisters and one brother have only ever walked on two hands and two feet, but another sister alternates between a bipedal and quadrupedal gait. Another brother walks on two feet all the time, but only with difficulty.

The siblings live with their parents and five other brothers and sisters. They were born with what looks like a form of brain damage.
MRI scans seem to show that they have a form of cerebellar ataxia, which affects balance and coordination.
However, scientists are divided on what caused them to revert to quadrupedalism (walking on all fours).
The method of locomotion used by the Turkish children and by our closest relatives chimpanzees and gorillas, differs in a crucial way, said Professor Humphrey.
While gorillas and chimpanzees walk on their knuckles, the Turkish siblings put their weight on the wrists, lifting their fingers off the ground.
Tool use
"What's significant about that is that chimpanzees ruin their fingers walking like that," Professor Humphrey, an evolutionary psychologist, told the BBC News website.

"These kids have kept their fingers very agile, for example, the girls in the family can do crochet and embroidery."
He added that calluses pictured on the hands of one family member demonstrated that the behaviour was not a hoax.
Professor Humphrey said this could be the way that humankind's direct ancestors walked.
Hands which have kept the fingers dextrous would also have been able to manipulate tools, a key development which influenced the evolution of the human body and intelligence.
"I think it's possible that what we are seeing in this family is something that does correspond to a time when we didn't walk like chimpanzees but was an important step between coming down from the trees and becoming fully bipedal," the LSE researcher said.

'Infant walking'

Professor Humphrey thinks that the brain abnormality simply caused the siblings to rediscover a form of locomotion used by our ancestors.
"Because of the peculiar circumstances they were in, they kept walking as infants," he said.
But a team led by Stefan Mundlos of the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, Germany, thinks that the genetic abnormality which causes the children's unusual gait may have played a more fundamental role in evolution.
Professor Mundlos has located the gene on chromosome 17 and speculates that a gene important in the transition to bipedalism may have been knocked out in the children.
Producer on the documentary Jemima Harrison said the programme's producers were moved by the family's "tremendous warmth and humanity".


Averroes said...

When did this turn into the Discovery Channel Blog?? bring back ahmad and his tandaloo!

Nana said...

Actually this blog isn't all about Ahmed. I blog about anything I find interesting, do you mind? :P

Averroes said...

Not at all.. feel free to long as it has him and the other members of the Cosa Nostra in it!

Nana said...

hehehe, alright, their adventures will be back after the holidays :D

meanwhile, if I remembered anything, I'll post it.

Averroes said...

Good Deal..cuz I think the kid who got beaten tomorrow by the kid whom he kharbashlo 3a ktabo ba3d shway will have some great incident to report to you last week!

Nana said...

looool, hilarious :D
thanx for the laugh.
They will definitely tell me last week what they did next week.

btw, nice blog :)
and my fiance's name is Ammar too.

Averroes said...

My pleasure..tell Ammar I said hi!

Anonymous said...

I have seen the documentary about a month ago,and to be honest with you it has affected me a great deal. It makes you appreciate and be thankful to what you have.
Thanks for writing all these interesting posts.


ola said...

Yeah I wanted to watch that! ma bedhom y3eedooh?

Nana said...

sure Ammar, thank you :)

Noura, you made me more excited to watch the documentary!

Ola, I have no idea, I think that we missed it :(

Anonymous said...


I really feel sorry for them..but this is an odd thing to see! It makes me wonder whether walking process is a natural act or what.. If their parents (those who have similar looks to theirs) walk on two, why would these ppl walk on all four? :s

Do they just immitate animals? I guess so :???:

thanx nannoosh.. nice indeed :)

Diana said...

well Areej, the scientists had various interpretations for this phenomenon which are mentioned in the article I posted.

There are lotta weird things in this world. sub7an Allah.