Scientists are puzzled by family who walks on all fours

A Turkish family challenges our understanding of human evolution as some members continue to walk on all fours, defying scientific explanations.

  (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)

In a perplexing case that has intrigued scientists, some members of a Turkish family have spent their lives walking on all fours, a behavior that defies our understanding of human evolution.

Who are they?

Known as the Olas family, their story was first brought to the world's attention through a scientific article and a subsequent documentary titled "The Family that Walks on All Fours," aired on the BBC in 2006.

The family consists of 18 children, six of whom were born with a previously unseen trait in modern human adults. Tragically, one of the six has since passed away.

"I never expected modern humans to revert to animal-like behavior," said Prof. Nicholas Humphrey, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics. "What sets us apart from the rest of the animal world is the fact that we walk on two legs and hold our heads high. Language and other factors contribute as well, but it is crucial for humans to recognize that we are different from other animals. This family breaks all boundaries."

Researchers from the University of Liverpool conducted studies on the children and discovered that their skeletons resembled those of apes more than humans.

Additionally, their brains were smaller and had shrunk, a condition that typically does not impact the ability to walk upright. However, unlike great apes, who use their knuckles for mobility, these children primarily used their palms, highlighting a significant distinction.

Why did this happen?

The researchers suggested that this unique walking pattern may have developed due to limited opportunities to stand on their own two feet beyond the age of nine months.

To aid their development, the family received the assistance of a physical therapist and specialized equipment, resulting in significant improvements in their mobility.