- The Family That Walks On All Fours
"The Family That Walks On All Fours" is a
BBC2documentary that explored the science and the story of five individuals in the Ulas familyin Turkeythat walk with a previously unreported quadrupedgait [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4782492.stm] . The documentary was created by Passionate Productions, lasts 59 min 10 secs and was broadcast on Friday 17 March 2006. The voiceoveris Jemima Harrison. A revised version of the documentary that shifts the focus away from the story of the discovery of the family and includes the views of additional scientists was shown on "NOVA" on November 14 2006 [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/allfours/] .
Debate exists as to the nature and cause of their walking, including controversial speculationFact|specify for who controversial|date=September 2008 that it may be a genetic throwback to pre-
bipedalhominid locomotion. Nicholas Humphreywho accompanied the documentary makers concluded that it was due to a rare set of genetic and developmental circumstances coming together. First, their mother recalls that initially all herr 19 children started off walking with a bear-crawl (i.e. on their feet rather than their knees only 5 adult walk on four). Second, due to an inherited recessive genetic mutation, they have a non-progressive congenitalcerebellar ataxia that impairs the balance children normally use to learn to walk bipedally. Not being able to manage the balance needed for bipedal walking, they perfected in its place their initial bear-crawl into an adult quadruped gait.
Strange footprints and footsteps appear: "About four million years ago our distant ancestors did something amazing, something that changed them forever. It is the moment for many that we made the leap from
The origin of the documentary is explained:
Nicholas Humphreyat his Cambridgehome in June 2005 receives a call from Dr. John Skoyles who has seen an unpublished paper by Turkish Professor Uner Tanthat focuses upon hand dominance in a family of quadrupeds that does not explore their usual gait. Humphrey explains his reaction and why the British scientists go off immediately to Turkey.
Background information to the main themes of the story are given with photos of
Atavism. The hostility to the theory of
evolutionin Turkey and among some Americans is explained as is the need for better information than that provided by human fossils.
The two British scientists and Tan visit the family and their father, Resit. There are 19 children in the family, 12 of them normal, and 7 were handicapped though one died. The commentary notes "The first hint of the problem" -- Gülin is introduced and "looks drunk" but on two legs – suggesting the problem is balance. Then each of affected hand-walking individuals is introduced: the four sisters Safiye, Hacer, Senem and Emine, and their brother, Hüseyin.
More commentary on the origins of
bipedalism, the australopithecine Laetolifoot prints and Lucy. Prof Humphrey explains the importance of learning how they can be helped.
A musical sequence then starts upon bipedal animals that includes a
ratand a dogwithout forelimbs. A sifakadances on two legs. It is explained that humans have extraordinary balance skills as a footballerbounces a ball on his foot and athletes run in a race.
Defne Aruoba, Turkish
clinical psychologistsand translatoris introduced, as is the nature of their problem – it is genetic. Prof Uner Tan and his theory is then introduced that they are "deevolved". Professor Tan’s wife, Doctor Meliha Tan, a neurologist is shown examining them – they have clinical signs of congenital cerebellar ataxia. A shot of a paper is shown by Prof Tan that labels them as having "Unertan syndrome". But the evidence suggests a more complex story: the sisters have good motor skills, elaborately and carefully tying scarvesaround their heads and doing needlework. They are shown chatting and joking together with Defne.
Their brain damage is not uncommon so why do they – and only they -- walk in this way? But there is more than a science problem: the local village are hostile and treat them as outcasts. The local children taunt Hüseyin. It is explained that they moved house when told that their previous one was "cursed", and that when they ran out of water no one would help. Defne tells of the parents' distress about what happen to their children when they die.
Cambridge University, Professor Roger Keynes, a neuroscientist, explains their brain abnormality – amongst other problems they have a defect of the cerebellar vermis. But Gülin who walks also has this brain defect.
So the brain cannot be the whole story since individuals born with a lack of cerebellum can still in a manner walk with bipedality.
The two British scientists return to Turkey to hunt for other reasons. Their father, Resit, has a deep but very kind and human
Muslimfaith. Perhaps they have too readily accepted fate?
Berlin, the geneticistProfessor Stefan Mundlos is shown and his laboratory. He explains DNAholds the secrets of our past – he hopes to find a genethat has switched off bipedal walking. Prof Humphrey, however, explains the problems of this theory – notably that Gülin who walks bipedally also has the same genetic defect.
But as the film makers note there is dissent in Professor Humphrey’s own ranks as his colleague Dr. John Skoyles suggests Mundlos might be half right – he suggests that there may be a gene but it impairs what he calls "superbalance". Dr. Skoyles points out that Hüseyin has good balance on four limbs – what he lacks is the superbalance we use to keep ourselves safely upright on two.
The story develops in Turkey: Defne explains there is local tension. The local
military policevisit the family and ask the documentary makers to leave. It is explained it is against the law in Turkey to insult Turkey and they fear that the documentary might compare the family to animals.
But Professor Humphrey explains the real problem is religious sensitivity. He is shown visiting and talking to the local
imam. But the religious objection to the idea people did not arise from Adam and Evedoes not only exists in Turkey: an evangelistic pastorin America expresses his creationism.
The documentary then shifts to the
American Museum of Natural History. Scientists there look at the film and make comments. Professor Will Harcourt-Smith and Dr. Esteban Sarmiento explain the limits of fossilevidence and the hope that this family might provide a new source of evidence.
Liverpool UniversityProfessor Robin Crompton has studied their movement: they walk in way that apeswalk on branches.
theoryof the two British scientists is explained. A clue is that their mother, Hatice, also occasionally moves through a quadruped-like stage when she gets up. The mother explains that all her 19 children crawled on their feet – bear-crawling. The suggestion is that the whole family has a propensity for the use of all four limbs out of which they all dropped except for the cerebellar ataxic children who could not balance and so kept using it, with the result it became their adult gait. Prof Humphrey also notes the importance of the lack of physiotherapy.
Defne then translates and explains the mother’s touchingly deep love for her children. Defne then expresses her own feelings: she does not care to find the source of their problems, she wants to know what can be done for them. The British scientists and the film makers invite in Dr Ali, a
physiotherapist. He examines them. He holds out hope for the sisters but not for Hüseyin. He gives the family a $30 walking frameto help them learn to walk on two feet – an aid surprisingly they have never had. Their father, Resit, says he would give everything if his children could walk without using their hands. His obvious love and deep care of his children is very apparent. Hacer explains she would love go to dances. Hüseyin, however, is shown going through despair, frustration and anger at his condition – only the family pet dog calms him down. Safiye, in her unhappiness, seeks solitude.
Contrasting with these scenes of sadness, we then see the family enjoying themselves at a sandy beach only an hour’s drive away. In spite of its nearness, they have never been to the sea before. We see them paddling and touching the sea waves. Hatice, their mother upon seeing the sea for the first time in her life says that she did not know that
Allahhad made such beauty.
The voiceover explains that it has been explained to the family that the film will put the world’s spotlight on them. Resit says does not want them compared to
monkeys. He does not believe in evolutionbut also he philosophically observes words cannot harm them and film might bring help and a little understanding. Professor Nicholas Humphrey expresses his concern that this phenomenon may never be seen again.
In January 2006, the film makers return to the family. Before they left,
parallel barshad been bought on Dr. Ali’s advice and put outside so the family could exercise upright walking and they have done this nearly every day. The family is seen smiling as they have made progress in learning to walk.
But there is sadness: Hüseyin may now be unable to learn to walk upright. The film ends with the following words "how amazing it is that we came to document an echo of one stage of our evolution and end up recording another ... the extraordinary moment, lost in time, when our ancestors stood up and become a man". We end seeing Hüseyin walking up a path on two legs.
People involved in its production
*Written, directed, voiceover and edited Jemima Harrison
*Photographed and produced Jon Lane
*Computer model Premog
*Titles Alex Pritchard
*Additional photography Darren Hercher
*Production Assistant Chloe Hayward
*Additional Research David Boardman
*Archive researcher Elizabeth Ashe
*Colourist Malcom Merdith
*Dubbing mixer Matt Skilton
*Online Editor Jim Dummett
*Executive Producer for BBC Richard Klein
*Consultants, Turkey Defne Aruoba, Cetin Mursalioğlu
*Consultants, UK Nick Humphrey,
Roger Keynes, John Skoyles
* [http://www.orato.com/health-science/2008/02/08/family-walks-all-fours Passionate Productions: Filming The Family That Walks On All Fours]
* [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/allfours/ NOVA]
* [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=379134&in_page_id=1770 The time-warp family who walk on all fours] (article from the "Daily Mail", March 7, 2006
* [http://www.world-science.net/exclusives/exclusives-nfrm/060225_syndrome.htm Claim of reversed human evolution provokes skepticism, interest]
* [http://www.passionateproductions.co.uk/film_family_walks.htm Passionate productions webpage on the family that walks on all fours]
*Humphrey, N., Keynes, R. & Skoyles, J. R. (2006). [http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/archive/00000463/01/CPNSS2.pdf Hand-walkers : five siblings who never stood up.Discussion Paper. Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science, London, UK.]
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