Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Polydactyly, or polydactylism, is the anatomical abnormality of having more than the usual number of digits on the hands or feet. It is a congenital abnormality, usually genetically inherited as an autosomal dominant trait.
In humans, it is usual to have five digits (four fingers and one thumb) on each hand, and five digits (toes) on each foot. Polydactyls have six or maybe even more digits on either their hands or feet, or both. The extra digits vary from small pieces of soft tissue to apparently complete digits. In Western societies, they are usually surgically removed during early life.
The condition is reported in about 2 children in every thousand, although the frequency varies greatly from population to population. It is higher in some groups (e.g. the Pennsylvania Dutch in the United States) due to the founder effect.
Historically, polydactyly has in some areas been considered an indication of witchcraft.
Types of polydactyly
There are several types of polydactyly, of varying frequency. Here are some of them:
- Polydactyly alopecia seborrheic dermatitis
- Polydactyly cleft lip palate psychomotor retardation
- Polydactyly myopia syndrome
- Polydactyly postaxial dental and vertebral
- Polydactyly postaxial with median cleft of upper lip
- Polydactyly postaxial
- Polydactyly preaxial type 1
- Polydactyly syndrome middle ray duplication
- Polydactyly visceral anomalies cleft lip palate
Marilyn Monroe's alleged polydactyly
A story that Marilyn Monroe was born with six toes resulted from the publication of photographs taken by the photographer Joseph Jasgur in March 1946. The pictures were published in the book The Birth of Marilyn: The Lost Photographs of Norma Jeane (1991) by Jasgur and Jeannie Sakol . Two of the pictures can be interpreted as showing six toes, although they can also be explained as tricks of the light. Since there is no corroborating evidence from other photographs or written records, the story is commonly dismissed as an urban legend.
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