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Family That Walks on All Fours

Program Overview


Note: As this program contains graphic information about physically and mentally handicapped individuals, it is best suited for mature 11th- and 12th-grade students. Be aware that issues about culture and physical handicaps may arise for some students viewing the program. Please preview it to determine its appropriateness for your classroom.

Diagram of head NOVA takes a look at possible reasons why some members of a Turkish family walk on all four limbs.

The program:

  • introduces the scientist who discovered the family and details his belief that the handwalkers represent an instance in which ancient genes have resurfaced.

  • presents fossil findings that indicate early human ancestors had a wrist structure that enabled knucklewalking on the ground like chimpanzees or gorillas, not palmwalking like the handwalkers.

  • reports the view of most experts who believe that while genes may malfunction to create, for example, short tails or excess facial hair in humans, ancient genes do not resurface in living organisms.

  • details research involving mutant fruit flies that reveal that animals share common forms because their bodies are all built from the same set of master genes.

  • follows a team of German scientists who are searching for one or more genes that relate to bipedality.

  • examines what might be discovered about human origins by studying mutations in living people.

  • reports on the discovery of a gene that seems to be related to an increase in brain size and may have been involved in the evolution of brain expansion.

  • notes that many scientists do not believe that a complex physical trait like walking or brain size can be traced to a single gene mutation.

  • considers how environmental factors may have played a role in how some of the family's members came to walk on all fours.

  • reviews the isolation and challenges that the family faces because of the disabilities of some of its members.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after the program is taped off the air.

Teacher's Guide
Family That Walks on All Fours