UCL News


Humans, chimps may have bred after split

18 May 2006

Boston scientists released a provocative report yesterday that challenges the timeline of human evolution and suggests that human ancestors bred with chimpanzee ancestors long after they had initially separated into two species.

The Nature paper joins a wave of work showing that the lines between species are hazy, according to Professor James Mallet [UCL Biology]. … a biologist who studies hybrids.

As two species evolve, they can develop new abilities. Some hybrids could combine the best of both species, Mallet said, though the biological barriers to the creation of hybrids increase the longer the species are apart.

It is thought that human ancestors were adapting to life on the savannah instead of the forest, where chimpanzees still live today. It is not known why human ancestors would have begun mating with chimpanzee ancestors again, or why they would have stopped.

Gareth Cook, 'Boston Globe'