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Baby born with extra digits – what is polydactylism?

Baby born with extra digits - what is polydactylism?Kamani Hubbard is something special because he was born with twelve fingers (6 on each hand) and twelve toes (six on each foot). What he has is known as polydactylism which is a rare hereditary condition occurring in about 1 out of every 1000 births. His dad, postal worker Kris Hubbard, said it runs in his family. In most cases of polydactylism, the extra finger or toe is simply a little stump or a “fleshy nubbin” on the side of the pinkie finger or the thumb. But Kamani, who was born last month in San Francisco, is unique because his extra fingers and toes are fully and perfectly formed like the rest. So perfect that the doctors did not notice immediately until, well – until they started counting.

So how does polydactylism occur? According to this article in the Guardian UK, it happens when a little finger/toe or a thumb/big toe splits during embryonic development. In some cultures, polydactylism is considered a birth defect and is therefore corrected as early as possible. This is usually done by tying off the extra digits until they fell off as is what happened to actress Gemma Arterton who played in the recent James Bond flick. In some parts of Asia (where I come from, for example) however, polydactylism is considered good luck and the person with the extra digit is sometimes thought to have special healing powers.

Experts say that the extra digits do not have any adverse effect on a child’s development. If the extra digits are functional, they should be left as they are. In some cases, they might even prove useful as in the case of the guitarist Hound Dog Taylor and the baseball pitcher Antonio Alfonseca. The only disadvantage to polydactylism is perhaps finding shoes wide enough to accommodate an extra toe. Or which one would the ring finger be?

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