Okay, see, now this is awesome. [io9]
There is a darn good reason io9 is probably my favorite website ever, and it’s articles like this that make it so. I remember being told in high school biology that the gene for six fingers on each hand is actually dominant, and has just been selectively bred out of the population for other reasons. I don’t know how true this is – it seems like a fair number of the things I was taught in our public school system have either been disproven or were flat-out wrong to begin with – but I always thought it was damn cool.
Naturally, the first six or seven comments are all “Princess Bride” jokes, but I’d like to move beyond that (You killed my father, prepare to die, etc etc). Apparently Mr. Garrido’s extra fingers (and toes!) are so well-formed that they are not only utile, he gets extra utility out of them. I do know that in most people born with additional digits, they are usually misformed or something making them essentially useless decorations… sort of like a vestigial tail. Not that anyone would really consider that a decoration.
On a side note, it’s really heartening to me that he says he is not discriminated against for his difference, but rather is respected and praised for it. It’s good to know that somewhere out there people have the possibility of being decent to one another. If he’d grown up in America, he’d probably be bitter and twisted after a lifetime of horrendous teasing, bullying and being made miserable, if some little psychopath didn’t end up bringing a knife to school and removing the extra digits themselves. (I have problems with public school.)
Somewhere in our genetic code is the possibility for this kind of thing to happen… or maybe it’s out of our genetic code now. I’m not a genetic scientist, unfortunately, just an IT guy and author with a passion for cool science stuff. I also have a passion for history, and it makes me wonder just what it was that we gave up the twelve-fingered genes for. If it exists within our DNA somewhere, why did we push it aside? Usually in evolution there’s some kind of trade-off that leads to the way things are. Were the extra fingers actually superfluous when we no longer needed to climb trees? How far back did this gene actually leave our genetic pool? After all, I’ve never heard of any anthropologists talking about how early humans or homo Neandertalis having six fingers, so just how long ago was this? Did it ever exist in modern homo Sapiens, or has it always been a throwback mutation for us?
Or… is it all a massive conspiracy where we are all born with six fingers on each hand, but the Illuminati have decided that we should only have five fingers, and any extras are immediately amputated at birth, and no one ever talks about it because everyone’s afraid to have their child labeled a freak?
Yeah, I know. That’s silly.