One of the highlights of this week’s International Conference of the International Union of International Human Phalangology, Midwest Division was a paper called “Confirmation of the Prevalence of Podiatric Phalanges in Homo sapiens: Humans Usually Have Toes.” Scientists at the State University of Northern South Dakota reported the findings of an extensive, multi-year study of human physiology. Their results “confirm the widely held belief that all humans, with the exception of a few genetic anomolies and victims of injuries, possess distal phalanges of the foot, commonly known in English as toes.”
For the last fifteen years, a team of scientists and graduate students, led by Alisha J. Patchett and Landon Arnold, has examined tens of thousands of subjects for the presence or absence of toes. The researchers examined people from every continent, from a wide variety of age groups, and from many different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, making this the most extensive study of toes to date.
While, to the non-specialist, the results of this research seem uninspiring, even boring, for the phalangological community, it is of the greatest importance. As Patchett explains:
It is really not easy to overestimate the significance of this research for phalangology. While it has long been widely believed that nearly all humans have toes, until the present there has been no large scale study confirming this belief. In their scope and importance within the discipline, these experimental results are as important as Arthur Eddington’s observation of gravitational light deflection (which confirmed Einstein’s theory of general relativity) and Galileo Galilei’s observation of the phases of Venus (which disproved Ptolemaic astronomy) were for physics.1
Major funding for this study was provided by the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts (NESTA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Toe Institute (NTI).
“Distal phalanges of foot08 inferior view,” BodyParts3D by DBCLS. (Polygon data is from BodyParts3D) CC-BY-SA-2.1-jp via Wikimedia Commons.
- While Galileo himself believed he had proved heliocentrism correct, this is not the case. Interested readers should most definitely consult the following 9-part article: http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-great-ptolemaic-smackdown.html. ↩