Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Did early humans go ape for chimps?. 18/05/2006. ABC News Online

Did early humans go ape for chimps?. 18/05/2006. ABC News Online:

"Did early humans go ape for chimps?

Humans' ancestors interbred with chimpanzees after the two species drew apart millions of years ago, a paper suggests.

The provocative idea is sketched by US genome experts, who have discovered that hominids and chimps diverged far more recently - and over a much longer time scale - than anyone had thought.

During this time, the authors theorise, the two primates were rather more than kissing cousins: they had sex, swapping genes before making a final separation.

'The ... analysis revealed big surprises, with major implications for human evolution,' co-author Professor Eric Lander, the director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said.

Until now, the belief was that humans and chimpanzees shared a common ancestor but went their separate ways around 6.5 - 7.4 million years ago.

The basis for this is a carbon-dated fossil called Toumai, whose supporters say is the oldest known human.

Its critics, though, dismiss Toumai as an ape."

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