Capturing humanity on film

Microencephalics provide clues to what separates humans from apes, according to scientist hosting a new documentary

Jennifer Rohn
Aug 10, 2006
Armand Marie Leroi, an evolutionary developmental biologist at Imperial College London, has written a new TV series, "What Makes Us Human," debuting Saturday (August 12) in the UK. He spoke with contributing editor Jennifer Rohn.Q: What sparked your idea for this new documentary, an exploration of the genes that distinguish humans from the great apes?A: While I was researching human genetic variation for my book Mutants, I came across a scientific paper about the Chuas or 'rat people' of Pakistan -- a marvelous story of small-headed people living as acolytes in a shrine. It was commonly believed until just a few years ago that their small heads were caused by clamping at birth, as the Chuas can earn their minders a large amount of money begging in the streets. But it seemed more likely that their microencephaly was genetic. I didn't include this in Mutants because nothing was...

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