Navigating Genetic Complexity in the Turkish Family's Story

Categories: Family


There's this eye-opening documentary called "The Family that Walks on All Fours" by PBS NOVA. It takes us to a remote corner in Turkey, where things get seriously interesting. Picture this: a family of twenty-one, parents and nineteen kids. Now, the kicker is, six of these kids are born quadrupedal. It's not your everyday scenario, and it sparks this whole debate—reverse evolution or a mental glitch in the cerebellum? The thing is, both these ideas come down to the genes.

But wait, it's not just a black-and-white genetic debate. There's a bunch of other factors in the mix, like inbreeding, isolation, the specific genes involved, and how the environment and culture play into all of this.

Factors Contributing to the Genetic Anomaly

Let's dive into this inbreeding thing. It's not that strange in the animal kingdom, but with humans, it's a bit more complicated. The reason animals often do it is this mating strategy called assortative mating, where a mate is chosen based on certain specs that are good for the species.

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It's like pre-zygotic selection, fancy term, huh? In our Turkish family case, get this, the parents were first cousins. Now, that's closer than usual for humans. Why did this happen? Blame it on geographical isolation. Their community is pretty much cut off from the neighboring towns; traveling around is just not their thing.

Rejecting "Genetic Throwback" Label

Now, here's the thing—they're not some "genetic throwback" or a "missing link." Labeling them like that is just not cool.

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Imagine being in their shoes, dealing with this, and people calling you a relic or a monster. Not fun. Besides, it doesn't do anything to help them get the medical assistance they need. It's offensive, and it messes with their community vibe. But, hold up, this family could actually give us some serious insights into how our genes deal with mobility. MRI scans show these siblings have something called cerebellar ataxia, messing with the brain's balance and muscle coordination, and that's a big deal.

Cerebellar Ataxia and Genetic Insights

Now, about this cerebellar ataxia thing. It's a glitch in the brain's cerebellum, a vital area for balance and coordination, sitting right at the top of your neck. The video drops a bomb saying there's this basic set of "blueprints" for our genes. So, if we can pinpoint the gene responsible for cerebral development, it's not just these guys who could benefit. It could help a bunch of folks with different cerebral issues. Imagine that—cracking the code to help not just one family but potentially many more.

Cultural Adaptation and Rehabilitation

Here's where it gets kinda inspiring. Because of their culture, the oldest brother pulls a DIY move and teaches himself to walk upright. That's some serious adaptability. With a bit of help and physical therapy, most of the affected siblings are making strides—literally. They're moving from being quadrupedal to walking upright. It's a journey, and it shows how culture and determination can flip the script on a tough situation.

Genetic Analysis and Future Research

So, let's dig into the genetics. Only five out of nineteen kids are affected, so maybe this quadrupedalism is a recessive trait. It's not sex-linked because it hits both boys and girls. There's a thought that it could be a lethal allele, but the evidence doesn't quite support that. Maybe there was a miscarriage, and it messes with essential genes, but it's not a clear-cut case. The hope? Keep digging. Maybe uncovering the genes behind this can shine a light not just on their situation but on cerebral development, motor function, and even evolution.


So, wrapping it up, this Turkish family isn't just a peculiar case. It's a window into the complexities of our genes, mobility, and how culture can shape our abilities. Forget the labels; let's focus on understanding the genetic puzzle. The more we unlock, the better we can help families like this and maybe solve bigger genetic mysteries along the way.

Updated: Dec 29, 2023
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Navigating Genetic Complexity in the Turkish Family's Story. (2017, Jan 26). Retrieved from

Navigating Genetic Complexity in the Turkish Family's Story essay
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