A Human Family Still Walks on All Fours, Suggesting Backwards Evolution

A scientific debate about a family in Turkey has continued for years, all because multiple members of the family walk on all fours.

One scientist infamously dubbed the condition backwards evolution, which was met with scorn by others in the scientific community.

A syndrome was established based on the multiple members of the Turkish family.

For years, the Ulas family in Turkey has received a lot of attention from the scientific community. Because five members of the family walk on all fours, one scientist concluded over a decade ago that the condition signaled backwards evolution.

But plenty of other scientists—and the father in the family—have a different take.

The debate was brought to light again recently by IFL Science, highlighting the push and pull of a scientist in Turkey with those from England (and now all across the world). The two factions have discussed the potential of backwards evolution due to five members of the family walking on all fours, like a bear crawl, reminiscent of the Homo sapiens before the bipedal mode became the norm.

Five of the 19 children in the Ulas family have walked on all fours since infancy. But the affected siblings have intellectual disabilities and imbalance issues, suggesting their way of moving was more of an opportunity for them to more easily navigate their world.

Üner Tan of Çukurova University Medical School in Adana, Turkey, infamously classified the family’s walking style as backwards evolution in 2006, using the term “Üner Tan Syndrome.” That led British scientists Nicholas Humphrey and John Skoyles and professor Roger Keynesto to get involved, along with a documentary crew.

Instead of agreeing with Tan, the British scientists noted that the balance issues and an inherited congenital condition made walking upright difficult, so the five children continued walking on all fours to better get around.

Since that time, researchers continue to weigh in on the issue, with many saying there’s no backwards evolution going on here, but rather, a potentially complicated gene disorder. Tan may have unwittingly thrown one family into the scientific spotlight, but he’s also kept research on the matter upright.

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