The TV show about the family is supposed to come on later this March. I hope it appears on BBC America or another channel soon afterwards so I can catch it.
Article from the London Times
Walking on All Fours with the Ancestors
By Sam Lister
FIVE brothers and sisters who can only walk naturally on all fours are being hailed as a unique insight into human evolution, after being found in a remote corner of rural Turkey.
Scientists believe that the family may provide invaluable information on how Man evolved from a four-legged hominid to develop the ability to walk on two feet more than three million years ago.
A genetic abnormality, which may prevent the siblings, aged 18 to 34, from walking upright, has been identified.
The discovery of the Kurdish family in southern Turkey last July has triggered a fierce debate. Two daughters and a son have only ever walked on two palms and two feet, with their extended legs, while another daughter and son occasionally manage a form of two-footed walking. The five can stand up, but only for a short time, with both knees and head flexed.
Some researchers claim that genetic faults have caused the siblings to regress in a form of “backward evolution”. Other scientists argue more strongly that their genes have triggered brain damage that has allowed them to develop the unique form of movement.
But all agree that the family’s walk, described as a “bear crawl”, may offer invaluable information on how our ape-like ancestors moved. Rather than walking on their knuckles like gorillas and chimpanzees, the family are “wrist walkers”, using their palms like heels with their fingers angled up from the ground.
Scientists believe this may be the way hominids moved, allowing them to protect their fingers for the more delicate and dextrous manoeuvres so critical in the evolution of Man.
Nicholas Humphrey, evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, who has visited the family, said that the siblings appeared to have reverted to an instinctive form of behaviour encoded deep in the brain, but abandoned in the course of evolution.
“I do not think they were destined to be quadrupeds by their genes, but their unique genetic make-up allowed them to be,” Professor Humphrey said. “It is physically possible, which no one would have guessed from the [modern] human skeleton.”
Professor Humphrey, who has been contributing to a BBC programme, The Family that Walks on All Fours, to be broadcast on March 17, said that weeks of study, and factors such as their hands’ shape and callouses, showed that this was a long-term pattern of behaviour and not a hoax. “However they arrived at this point, we have adult human beings walking like ancestors several million years ago,” he said.
The siblings, who live with their parents and 13 other brothers and sisters, are mentally retarded, as a result of a form of cerebellar ataxia — an underdevelopment of the brain similar to that in cystic fibrosis. Their mother and father, who are themselves closely related, are believed to have passed down a unique combination of genes resulting in the behaviour. While Professor Humphrey said that cultural influences in their upbringing may have played a crucial role, with parental tolerance allowing the children to keep to quadrupedal walking, others believe that the cause is more purely genetic.
Uner Tan, a professor of physiology at Cukurova University in Adana, Turkey, who first brought the family to the attention of scientists, argues that the gene mutations have made them regress to a “missing link” primate state, also explaining their severe problems with language. A team of German geneticists believes that the family holds the key to a breakthrough gene for bipedality.
Researchers said that while the women affected, Safiye, 34, Senem, 22, and Amosh, 18, tended to spend their time sitting outside the family’s basic rural home, one brother, Huseyin, 28, went into the local village on all fours, where he could engage in basic interactions.
Jemima Harrison, of Passionate Productions, said: “They walk like animals and that’s very disturbing at first. But we were also very moved by this family’s tremendous warmth and humanity.”
APF World News story on Yahoo News
Human Quadrupeds Discovered in Turkey
Tue Mar 7, 7:56 AM ET
The discovery of a Turkish family that walks on all fours could aid research into the evolution of humans.
Researchers believe the five brothers and sisters, who can walk naturally only on all fours, may provide new information on how humans evolved from four-legged hominids to walk upright.
Nicholas Humphrey, evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, told The Times the discovery opened "an extraordinary window on our past".
"I do not think they were designed to be quadrupeds by their genes, but their unique genetic make-up allowed them to be," he said.
"It has produced an extraordinary window on our past. It is physically possible, which noone would have guessed from the [modern] human skeleton."
The siblings, the subject of a new BBC documentary to be aired on March 17, suffer from a genetic abnormality that may prevent them from walking upright.
Instead, they use their palms like heels with their fingers sticking up from the ground.
The BBC said the documentary would contribute to fierce scientific debate and raised profound questions about what it is to be human.
Humphrey, who has contributed to the documentary, believes the style of walking may be a throwback to a form of behaviour abandoned by humans more than three million years ago.
Two sisters and one son have only ever walked on two hands and two feet, while another daughter and son occasionally walk on two feet.
All five are mentally retarded and have problems with language as a result of a form of underdevelopment of the brain known as cerebellar ataxia.
However Humphrey told the Times their behaviour may be partly the result of their parents tolerating the behaviour in childhood.
They are aged between 18 and 34 and live in southern Turkey, athough the makers of the documentary have not disclosed their exact location.
"They walk like animals and that's very disturbing at first. But we were also very moved by this family's tremendous warmth and humanity," Jemima Harrison of Passionate Productions told the Times.