Turkish Wrist Walkers

Status: Real
I've received quite a few emails about the following story, presumably because it seems like something lifted from Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks. A family in Turkey contains five siblings who have apparently never learned how to walk on their feet. They still walk on all fours, with the weight of their upper bodies supported by their wrists (wrist walking, as opposed to knuckle walking, which is what apes do). You can check out a video of one of these wrist walkers on the website of Turkish researcher Uner Tan.

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The case of these wrist walkers is far too widely reported to be a hoax. Apparently there's even a BBC documentary about them in the works. Scientific interest in them stems from the light they might shed on a long-standing debate about how humans evolved the ability to walk upright. Were humans knuckle walkers (like other primates) or wrist walkers before they started walking on two feet?

There's also debate about whether these Turkish siblings are merely suffering from a form of brain damage and never learned how to walk upright (this theory is argued by a team of British researchers... their paper is at the top of the list of articles), or are the siblings a case of reverse evolution (the Turkish researcher Uner Tan is arguing this). Whatever the case may be, none of it seems to be a hoax.

World Science has a couple of informative articles about the controversy (article 1, article 2).


Posted on Mon Feb 27, 2006


That's weird. My son learned to walk by himself. It's not a skill one aquires like reading or table manners. I think it's pretty much instinct.
Posted by JoeSixpack  on  Tue Feb 28, 2006  at  06:45 AM
It's a hoax by the children themselves. With 19 (?) kids in the family, they feel unloved/unnoticed, and use this as a means of getting attention. In 5 or so years, they'll stand up and say "ha ha" to the world.
Posted by Fred Flintstone  on  Tue Feb 28, 2006  at  07:14 AM
Brain damage of all 5 kids? Unlikely.
Reverse evolution? Ha!
A hoax by 5 kids who crave attention? Ding! Ding! Ding!
Posted by AqueousBoy  on  Tue Feb 28, 2006  at  07:45 AM
They're not actually kids anymore. They're grown-up. In other words, if it's a hoax on their part, they deserve some kind of award for sticking with the act for some thirty odd years.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Tue Feb 28, 2006  at  09:42 AM
It's real.
Three possible explanations:
1. Lazy parents.
2. Family of alcoholics.
3. Gastro-intestinal problems.
Posted by booch  on  Tue Feb 28, 2006  at  09:44 AM
JoeSixPack is right, walking upright is something done instinctivly. Babies not yet ready to walk can be held upright by a parent, the baby will then move his legs as though walking upright. Someone might say he learned how to move like that from observing the parents, but then you have to explain why crawling (not demonstrated by parents) comes naturally and walking doesn't. Remember the mouse on fire story was widly reported, as was the severed member in the microwave. In fact I heard about the conclusion to the penis story here before any place else. Most sources that reported the story when it was suppose to be a real penis, never went back later to amend it as a fake hoo-hoo.
Posted by Lonewatchman  on  Tue Feb 28, 2006  at  12:51 PM
I'm thinking an inner ear problem. It messes with your balence, so it would be very difficult to walk.
Posted by Dracul  on  Tue Feb 28, 2006  at  01:03 PM
Five out of nineteen would be quite close to the statistically expected number of affected offspring if this is caused by a recessive gene. One would expect one out of four to be affected.
Didn't the British team attribute their gait to a form of ataxia?
Posted by Ledasmom  on  Tue Feb 28, 2006  at  04:24 PM
"All five of the quadruped siblings
Posted by outeast  on  Thu Mar 02, 2006  at  08:56 AM
It doesn't seem like a hoax...

Not to mention, a child with spina bifida (that survives infancy) may have problems walking upright, and I have seen SB kidss bent over at the waist walking similarly to the above people.

Since I'm not a doctor, I can't really think of any other diseases that can cause this...but as mentioned above - there most deffinately are.
Posted by Maegan  on  Sun Mar 05, 2006  at  10:05 AM
If their parents are as closely related as I've read, this could be a result of, essentially, inbreeding.
Posted by christy  on  Tue Mar 07, 2006  at  10:19 AM
What a load of rubbish!

I certain arab countries people will do anything to earn a couple of quid.
Posted by Whathe?  on  Tue Mar 07, 2006  at  12:47 PM
Here is a link to a news story about this.


From the last paragraph:

The documentary, to be shown on BBC2 on Friday, March 17, is called The Family That Walks On All Fours.
Posted by Absolut  on  Tue Mar 07, 2006  at  01:53 PM
In response to what "Whathe?" said: I suppose people in Western cultures don't do "anything to earn a couple quid?" Ever heard of a tabloid? That's an incredibly ignorant remark. Not to mention the fact that Turkey is not an Arab country, child. It's actually more European. Finally, what people have been saying about the vestibular system is more than likely the case. If that system goes out of whack, you can't walk normally. I definitely believe the story.
Posted by EZ  on  Tue Mar 07, 2006  at  10:07 PM
I find the whole thing very interesting and I certainly will be watching the BBC program on St. Patricks's day
Amazing what happens when genes get mixed up.
Posted by Nancy  on  Wed Mar 08, 2006  at  01:47 AM
Is it that impossible that there are actually people on this Earth different to the old 'run of the mill' human being???
Believe it of not, it is actually possible for evolution to 'slip up' sometimes.
That said, I can see why some would have a problem believing the story but we do all learn from what we hear and see. It's also possible that one of the siblings that has this throwback and because the other 4 siblings saw this they decided to copy.
I'm not sure what I think about interbreeding as I do wonder if the warnings of disabilities and deformed foetuses is scaremongering to put those that have thought about it off the idea as it is socially unacceptable. I'm guessing the parents of this brood are brother and sister as they are 'very closely related'(ewww).
Maybe if they both had a recessive backward evolution gene the fact they are related would make the odds of this gene appearing in their children much higher.
Anyway, I'm just speculating and it'll be interesting to see the documentry to see if it is convincing.
I can be convinced one way or the other and just get annoyed when people dismiss the idea of something new (or old) as out of the question for no real reason. If these people wanted to make a 'quick buck' would they not have done that 25 yrs ago so they could then revert back to walking on just 2 limbs. 30 something years isn't my idea of a quick buck!
Posted by Andrea  on  Wed Mar 08, 2006  at  01:59 AM
This has all been caused by inbreeding, and the mental problems caused by it.
Posted by Brett  on  Wed Mar 08, 2006  at  09:49 PM
This is definetly a case of inbreeding and isolation. Evolution had nothing to do with this ... I grew up near a family who had over 13 children. The mother and father were actually father and daughter. The father also later produced children with the children he had from his daughter and children from the grandchildren.

There were many strange deformed children born out of this. Babies that only had a mouth and indents were the eyes and nose should be. They had one child that lived to be about 8. He was born with teeth and small bumps rather than ears. To look at him that's all you would see, but at the age of 1 or 2 they had to keep him penned up because he would bite chunks out of the other children.

I remember my grandmother visiting them and they would poke food through the cage at him. There were others that you never saw but just heard growling like animals in a back room somewhere. They too were isolated in the back woods - they owned 60 acres with no one around for miles. I can only remember 2 or 3 being somewhat functional. This was back in 1940's early 50's and something I will never forget.
Posted by SeaShell  on  Mon Jan 01, 2007  at  08:05 PM
These people are the local villagers. And villagers in general are hard working people. I think genetics.
Posted by Okan  on  Mon Aug 03, 2009  at  10:07 PM
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