The Toothless Hairless Men of Sind

In 1875, Charles Darwin, author of On the Origin of Species, wrote of a peculiar family of Sind, a province in northwest India, in which ten men, in the course of four generations, were furnished in both jaws taken together, with only four small and weak incisor teeth and with eight posterior molars. The men thus affected have little hair on the body, and become bald early in life. They also suffer much during hot weather from excessive dryness of the skin. It is remarkable that no instance has occurred of a daughter being thus affected. . . . Though daughters in the above family are never affected, they transmit the tendency to their sons; and no case has occurred of a son transmitting it to his sons.

These men possessed a genetic condition now known as an-hidrotic ectodermal dysplasia, which (as noted by Darwin) is characterized by small teeth, no sweat glands, and sparse body hair. Darwin also noted several key features of the inheritance of this disorder: although it occurs primarily in men, fathers never transmit the trait to their sons; unaffected daughters, however, may pass the trait to their sons (the grandsons of affected men). These features of inheritance are the hallmarks of a sex-linked trait, a major focus of this chapter. Although Darwin didn't understand the mechanism of heredity, his attention to detail and remarkable ability to focus on crucial observations allowed him to identify the essential features of this genetic disease 25 years before Mendel's principles of heredity became widely known.

Darwin claimed that the daughters of this Hindu family were never affected, but it's now known that some women do have mild cases of anhidrotic ectodermal dysplasia. In these women, the symptoms of the disorder appear on only some parts of the body. For example, some regions of the jaw are missing teeth, whereas other regions have normal teeth. There are irregular patches of skin having few or no sweat

P generation

Fj generation

0 0

Post a comment