Department of Anthropology

Liza Shapiro Proves Family that Walk on All Fours Is Not Evolving Backwards

Thu, July 17, 2014

Professor Liza Shapiro's study was published this month in PLOS One and found that quadrupedal humans with Uner Tan Syndrome do not walk in the diagonal pattern characteristic of nonhuman primates such as apes and monkeys. Five siblings in the family, who live in a remote corner of Turkey, walk exclusively on their hands and feet. Since they were discovered in 2005, scientists have debated the nature of their disability, with speculation they represent a backward stage of evolution. Previous research countering this view has proposed that the quadrupedalism associated with UTS is simply an adaptive response to the impaired ability to walk bipedally in individuals with a genetic mutation, but this is the first study that disproves claims that this form of walking resembles that of nonhuman primates.

The study’s co-authors are Jesse Young of Northeast Ohio Medical University; David Raichlen of the University of Arizona; and Whitney Cole, Scott Robinson and Karen Adolph of New York University.

For more information, the official University of Texas press release can be found here.

The original research article can be found here.

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