Find information on thousands of medical conditions and prescription drugs.


In biology, dactyly is the arrangement of digits (fingers and toes) on the hands, feet, or sometimes wings of an animal. It comes from the Greek word δακτυλος, meaning "finger". more...

Ebola hemorrhagic fever
Ebstein's anomaly
Ectodermal Dysplasia
Ectopic pregnancy
Edwards syndrome
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
Elective mutism
Ellis-Van Creveld syndrome
Encephalitis lethargica
Encephalomyelitis, Myalgic
Endocarditis, infective
Endomyocardial fibrosis
Eosinophilic fasciitis
Epidermolysis bullosa
Epidermolytic hyperkeratosis
Epiphyseal stippling...
EPP (erythropoietic...
Epstein barr virus...
Erythema multiforme
Esophageal atresia
Esophageal varices
Essential hypertension
Essential thrombocythemia
Essential thrombocytopenia
Essential thrombocytosis
Evan's syndrome
Ewing's Sarcoma
Exploding head syndrome
Hereditary Multiple...
Hereditary Multiple...
Hereditary Multiple...
Hereditary Multiple...

Sometimes the ending "-dactylia" is used. The adjectival forms end with "-dactyl" or "-dactylous".

By number

Pentadactyly is the condition of having five digits on each limb. All land vertebrates are descended from an ancestor with a pentadactyl limb, although many groups of species have lost or transformed some or all of their digits.

Tetradactyly is the condition of having four digits on a limb, as in amphibians and many birds

Tridactyly is the condition of having three digits on a limb, as in some birds and ancestors of the horse such as Protohippus and Hipparion.

Bidactyly or didactyly is the condition of having two digits on each limb, as in the Two-toed Sloth, Choloepus didactylus. In humans this name is used for an abnormality in which the middle digits are missing, leaving only the thumb and fifth finger.

Monodactyly is the condition of having a single digit on a limb, as in modern horses.

Syndactyly is a condition where two or more digits are fused together. It occurs normally in some mammals, such as the siamang. It occurs as a rare abnormality in humans.

In birds

Anisodactyly is the most common arrangement of digits in birds, with three toes forward and one back. This is common in songbirds and other perching birds, as well as hunting birds like eagles, hawks, and falcons.

Syndactyly in birds is like anisodactyly, except that the third and fourth toes (the outer and middle forward-pointing toes) are fused together, as in the Belted Kingfisher, Ceryle alcyon.

Zygodactyly (from Greek ζυγον, a yoke) is an arrangement of digits in birds, with two toes facing forward (digits 2 and 3) and two back (digits 1 and 4). This arrangement is most common in arboreal species, particularly those that climb tree trunks or clamber through foliage. Zygodactyly occurs in the woodpeckers and flickers, nuthatches, and parrots.

Heterodactyly is like zygodactyly, except that it is digits 3 and 4 that point forward and digits 1 and 2 that point back. This is only found in trogons.

Other terms

An excess of digits is called hyperdactyly or polydactyly, such as in the extremely rare case that a person has six fingers or toes on a single hand or foot.

A lack of digits not caused by an amputation is called hypodactyly.

Ectrodactyly is the congenital absence of all or part of one or more fingers or toes. This term is used for a range of conditions from aphalangia (in which the some of the phalanges or finger bones are missing), to adactyly (the absence of a digit).


[List your site here Free!]

From Independent, The (London), 9/24/00 by Chris Rodell

These days we're far too civilised for the freak shows which once drew crowds from far and wide. But where does that leave the "freaks" themselves? Chris Rodell visits Gibsonton, Florida, home of Lobster Boy, Monkey Girl and the World's Strangest Couple

The first pangs of low-grade panic begin their calisthenics on the third day. It's a kind of gnawing on the stomach lining that's similar to the fifth time you've vainly scoured your flat for the car keys and are now seriously thinking it's time to dissect the dog. Where could they have gone? They were right here before. How could they not be here?

I'm in Gibsonton, Florida, and I can't find the freaks. If that makes no sense to you, consider the fact that not finding freaks in Gibsonton is like not finding corn in Kansas. It's like being in the sea and not finding fish. If it wasn't so disturbingly ironic even to apply the term, it would be freaky. All the leering headlines profiling Gibsonton call it "Freaktown USA!" It's the land of Lobster Boy, the World's Tallest Man, Monkey Girl, the World's Strangest Couple and the World's Fattest Man. And if profligate reporters can't find freaks in Gibsonton, they will have a difficult time justifying to bean counters the World's Biggest Expense Account.

Gibsonton is the fabled winter home of nearly every carnival and sideshow act in America that sets up in a fairground or church carpark. About 30 minutes south of Tampa, "Gibtown" as the carnival folk all call it, is where the lurid pages of the supermarket tabloid Weekly World News come shrieking to life. Or so I have been told - a candle of a notion Alieta Klinger is quick to extinguish: "Look, if you're here to do one of those exploitative stories about three-eyed men and two-headed cows, you're going to be disappointed."

Klinger is a chairwoman at the 30th annual International Independent Showman's Foundation, showcasing the latest industry hardware. That means the scenic fairgrounds along the banks of the Alafia River are crowded with empty ticket booths, Ferris wheels and enough "snack shacks" to give dyspeptic nightmares to a Third World's worth of patrons. Klinger is right, too. There is not a freak in sight. Just well-off, mostly white men - carnival owners who look like they'd be more at home in a country club telling Hillary Clinton jokes than elbowing their way along a pathway that reeks of corndogs.

Ken Hayward retired from teaching in 1973 to run away with the carnival - his own. He's been operating Wabash Valley Shows at the same Midwest fairs and festivals for nearly three decades. He's on the road just 21 weeks a year and has the quick smile of a man who loves what he does. Can he find me a freak? "There are no freaks in carnivals any more," he says. "The government put 'em all out of business. They made it easier for them to stay home and collect welfare cheques than to go out and work for a living. I tell you, the government's outta control." Hayward has a bumper sticker that reads, "Rush is Right".

Still, there have to be freaks. I flee the fairgrounds and cruise the streets of Gibsonton. This is the part of Florida where the skies apparently once opened up and rained neat grids of shabby trailer homes for miles and miles. Retail-wise, everything's either a strip mall or a strip joint. A beaten-up pick-up truck at the Checker's drive-thru has a bumper sticker that reads, "Third Generation Cracker Proud". Around here, the only trash that gets recycled is white. And because this is showmen's convention week, all the old carnival folk are hosting yard sales: ferris wheels, caterpillar choo-choo trains, water games, giant swing rides all sit for sale in garish glory outside nearly every trailer.

Listen carefully and you can hear the occasional roar of tigers, lions and bears. Gibtowners are still upset over the untimely demise of Teresa Caballero-Ramos, 52, who was killed by a local pet that escaped and trampled her to death. It was Kenya the elephant. When it comes to Gibtown, it really is a jungle out here. Ten days later, two- and-a-half-ton Kenya was mysteriously found dead in her pen. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department suspects foul play and is investigating.

Judy Rock says there hasn't been this much disharmony since Lobster Boy murdered his daughter's fiance. "We don't even like to talk about that," she says with a shiver. "It was all so terrible." Lobster Boy was Grady Stiles Jnr. He and his offspring were born with "ectrodactyly", a genetic condition that causes all the fingers and toes to fuse into two-digit claws that look spine-tinglingly similar to the pink-limbed crustaceans you see on plates in expensive restaurants.

Hard-drinking Stiles was found guilty of murdering his daughter Kathy's boyfriend, but no facility in the state could accommodate his condition. Favourable testimony from character witnesses, the Bearded Lady and the Fat Man, persuaded the judge he was no longer a threat to society. He was given probation.

That was when things started getting weird. Stiles's abused wife ran off with a dwarf in 1992 and paid a hit man $1,500 to kill Stiles. The Lobster Boy was cooked.

Judy Rock was there for it all. She's the daughter of Al and Jeanie Tomaini. He was 8ft 412in tall; she was a 2ft 6in torso often billed as being "two-and-a-half-feet... but no legs!" After they fell in love while touring, they became the "World's Strangest Married Couple". Rock has a bumper sticker that reads, "If You Think I'm Strange, You Should Meet My Parents".

AL THE GIANT is a founding freak of Gibtown. He opened Giant's Camp here in the late 1940s. It was a place where all freaks and human oddities would be welcomed.

Soon, Gibtown was wall-to-wall freaks, and honest critics could justifiably call the local government a real circus. Al was the fire chief; dwarf Col Casper was chief of police. Rock remembers looking up at the dinner table and seeing a couple of giants, three or four midgets, Monkey Girl and Three-Legged Frank Lentini. "Gibtown was a great place to grow up," she says. "When I was in the sixth grade, I already knew how to eat fire and swallow butter knives."

Today, Rock, 53, sits in a tiny, cluttered office under the watchful gaze of hundreds of celebrity eyes. They're all here - Robert De Niro, Judge Judy, Angela Lansbury, Kevin Costner, William Shatner, Dan Quayle and, the biggest of them all, Regis. This child of the freaks today writes polite letters to celebrities requesting autographed pictures, and most are willing to oblige. She still runs Giant's Camp, and engraves off-beat tombstones for the dearly departed with everything from marijuana leaves to Old Milwaukee beer tru dcks.

She mourns the passing of the freak shows, with carnivals bent to political correctness like a nimble-limbed contortionist. "Today's carnivals are all about grab joints for food and rides," she says with a dismissive wave of her hand. "The whole point is to feed 'em, make 'em throw up on the rides and then get 'em to eat again.

"My Dad died in 1962 and Mom passed last year. One by one, the last generation of true freaks is passing away. And no new human oddities are being born. Medical science can correct some of the conditions that led to freaks in the past. That's good, I guess. But many more babies are simply aborted if the doctor says the baby's going to be deformed. That saddens me. My Mom was what they called deformed. She had no legs. But she lived a wonderful, long life and touched many people. I'm very opposed to abortion."

She advises me to see Melvin Burkhardt, the Human Blockhead, and I turn to go. "Oh," she stops me. "I don't know if this will help or not, but before she died, my Mom always said, 'Hey, let's go see the freaks.'" Oh? Where'd you take her? "I'd just drive her out to the mall. There's always plenty of weirdos out there."

MELVIN BURKHARDT is a legend among sideshow performers, highly sought after by journalists who've always dreamed of asking the question, "So, what's the longest piece of hardware you've ever pounded up your nose?"

Burkhardt is credited with inventing the modern Human Blockhead routine in the 1920s. He's a 93-year-old anatomical wonder who doesn't look a day over 83. These days, however, he has to pay if he wants to get into the Showman's Association to see old friends. "The part of the carnival I represent is not welcome any more," he says, with an ill-concealed edge of bitterness. "The freaks are all gone. A freak used to be allowed to grow up and maintain his or her individuality and make a nice living. Now, medical science can spurt growth in midgets, it can shrink giants, and, with DNA, soon we'll be able to grow 'em any way you want."

Even true human blockheads are fading away, and that's a pity because Burkhardt's act still thrills as he prepares to drive a silver nail as big as a rail spike straight into his right nostril. He swings the hammer at the bulbous bull's-eye of his nose with vigour. I am hypnotised by the sight of a man with two inches of a six-inch nail sticking straight out of his face.

FREAKLESS AND FRUSTRATED in Gibtown, I head for the Florida State Fair in Tampa to meet legendary sideshow impresario Ward Hall. His World of Wonders sits in a remote corner of the enormous fairground and, symbolically, faces a long, grey row of 12 portable lavatories. Hall has written a book called My Very Unusual Friends. On the cover is a smiling shot of him leaning between the Siamese twins Ronnie and Donnie Galyon, who spent their entire lives staring directly at one another. Joined at the breastbone from birth in 1951, the two shared a common navel, internal organs and one penis.

Hall, 70, tells me about the old days: "Yeah, there was Three- Eyed Bill Dirks. He looked like he'd been split down the face with an axe. He'd been born with a deep indentation between his eyes that appeared as a third eye and his nose was divided with nostrils on each side of the depression. Lip was split, too. Great guy."

He tells me about Frog Boy, Sealo the Seal Man, the Ossified Lady, Mule- Faced Grace McDaniels and the trouble that happened when Priscilla the Monkey Girl eloped with Emmit the Alligator Skinned Boy. "Those were the good ol' days." His own freak show features a fire-eater/ human blockhead, a sword swallower, some snakes, a friendly ticket-taker midget, and Fat Man Howard Huge, whose Mom wanted him to be a lawyer. He's got some museum exhibits of famous freaks like Three-Eyed Dirks, Lionel the Lion-Faced Man, but really, it's kind of lame. There's a guy selling snacks two tents down who looks heavier than Howard Huge.

Hall admits that every time he goes to the mall he sees at least one man or woman who could have qualified for the Fat act. Meanwhile, natural- born human oddities, the kind that used to flock to his sideshows to escape small-town monotony and persecution, are disappearing. "Back in the 1950s, there used to be hundreds of true professional human oddities working the country. Today, there are none. And that's too bad, because there's a greater appetite for human oddities than ever before. People are fascinated, but the freaks are all gone."

THE ONLY TRUE freaks I find after five fruitless days - freaks who could still shock and amaze - are probably Kathy Stiles, 31, and her nine-year- old home-schooled daughter, Misty. They are the clawed, scarred descendants of the infamous Lobster Boy.

Has she ever thought about touring again? "I quit in 1992 and I won't go back," she says. "We made some good money, but it was really hard, and the government made it easier to stay home and collect disability." Rush it seems is right.

"People still stare when we go out because, I guess, we're the last true freaks. Everyone's tattooed and pierced, and we saw a kid at the mall with blue hair the other day, but they stare at us just for being the way we were born. People really need to get a grip."

Back home I tell my friends and family that I've failed to find the freaks in Gibtown. My tanned father-in-law, himself just returned from a long Florida vacation, says: "You should have come with us to Key West. Freaks everywhere." Everywhere but Gibtown.The freaks are dead. Long live the freaks. n

Copyright 2000 Newspaper Publishing PLC
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.

Return to Ectrodactyly
Home Contact Resources Exchange Links ebay