A Turkish family is appearing to be challenging long-held beliefs about human evolution.
Certain members of the Ulas family walk on all fours, which had not been observed in fully-grown modern humans prior to their identification.
This unusual behaviour was first documented in a scientific research report, and in 2006, a BBC documentary named “The Family That Walks on All Fours” was released.
Researchers said they were utterly baffled by the revelation of the family’s walking habit.
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Professor Nicholas Humphrey, an expert in evolutionary psychology, at the London School of Economics discovered that six out of the 18 children in the family were born with this exceptional characteristic.
One of those six has since died, reports the Daily Star.
He told a 60 Minutes Australia documentary: “I never expected that even under the most extraordinary scientific fantasy that modern human beings could return to an animal state,
“The thing which marks us off from the rest of the animal world is the fact that we’re the species which walks on two legs and olds out heads high in the air… of course it’s language and all other sorts of things too, but it’s terribly important to our sense of ourselves as being different from others in the animal kingdom. These people cross that boundary.”
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The 60 Minutes Australia documentary described the family as potentially “the missing link between man and ape”, saying they have “untold significance for every one of us” and “shouldn’t exist”.
The Turkish scientists who published the first paper believed some form of “devolution” had taken place, a genetic problem that had somehow rewound three millions years of evolution.
However, Prof Humphreys told the BBC documentary this description was “deeply insulting” and “scientifically irresponsible”.
The affected children’s brains were found to have a shrunken cerebellum. However, other humans with this condition still walk on two legs.
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Scientists at Liverpool University found their skeletons were more like apes than humans. However, it is also important to note that they don’t walk on their knuckles like apes, but rather with flat hands.
Prof Humphrey told the BBC: “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.”
Prof Humphrey also suggested a lack of encouragement given to the children to begin standing after the age of nine months could have impacted their development.
The children were eventually appointed a physiotherapist and given equipment to help them walk on two feet. By the time Prof Humphrey returned on a second visit to Turkey, they were making significant progress.
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