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John Wayne's Holster: I’ll Be A Monkey's Uncle
John Wayne's Holster
Visit my main blog at Monkey Wrench Revival. Visit my birdwatching blog at The Birding Nerd.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

I’ll Be A Monkey's Uncle

Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!

As the late Dr. Bill Marks, my Genetics professor at Villanova University, used to say, the simplest way to define evolution is the change in the frequency of alleles (genes) over time. As changes in the frequency of many alleles begin to accumulate within populations, those populations begin to diverge from their ancestral group. At some point, a new species emerges. Granted, this is a gross oversimplification, but will suffice for the present time. Those interested in a more detailed explanation can go here.

When one considers the origin of man, evolution contends that man and apes arose from a common ancestor. Certainly there is a great deal of controversy on this subject, particularly when the Bible is thrown into the mix. Creationism and intelligent design aside, the vast majority of scientific evidence supports the claims made by neo-Darwinists.

It is not my intention to take up the Darwin vs. Creationism issue here. Anyone interested in reading about that can Google those terms and spend the rest of their natural life in front of their computer. However, spending too much time could result in your removal from the gene pool.

Not to throw more fuel on the fire, but recently this issue got a lot more interesting. Early last month, a group from the Broad Institute published an article in Nature claiming that ”… human and chimpanzee lineages initially diverged, then later exchanged genes...” In other words, humans and chimps interbred.

Wow! Seems that someone must have torn that page out of my Bible.


At 11:56 AM, Anonymous Roy said...

Well that is interesting. I did not realize that interbreading was possible. I was watching a program on National Geographic that said humans and Neanderthals (hope I spelled correctly) could not have children together because their bodies were too different. I would think that Chimpanzees were even more different but that's why I'm a Journalism/PolySci/English student and not a science major.

At 9:34 AM, Anonymous Roy said...

Joe, I just watched a program called Humanzee about this chimpanzee named Oliver. He walked upright and damned if he didn't look like he was part human. He mimicked human behaviors and was only attracted to human females. The show also showed other successful attempts to interbreed species. There was a "Liger" or a Lion and a Tiger. On the show they said that most times different species interbreed the offspring are sterile, natures way of controlling them. However, they could never get Oliver to breed with another chimp because he was only attracted to humans.

At 2:18 PM, Anonymous Joe Verica said...

Hi Roy

thanks for the comments. Sorry about the delay in responding. Spent the last two weeks in SF and Yosemite.

Anyway, as far at the interbreeding goes, I don't think the article is trying to say that interbreeding between "modern" chimps and humans is possible, only that interbreeding may have been possible close to the time of divergence (when the two would have been more similar than they are now).

As for Oliver, I saw that program as well a few months back. I think it was on Discovery or the Learning Channel. I must admit he did look and act more human than one would expect. There has been lots of speculation as to his origin. I don't know if anyone ever did DNA testing on him or not, I will have to go back and check.

At 3:31 PM, Anonymous Joe Verica said...

Found this info regarding Oliver. No evidence for hybidization - he was all chimp.

Science 10 April 1998:
Vol. 280. no. 5361, p. 207
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5361.207b

Random Samples
A primate named Oliver has attracted waves of media attention over the last few decades for certain humanlike qualities, including a habit of walking upright (Science, 1 November 1996, p. 727). But DNA testing has finally pegged Oliver as strictly a chimp.

Since making his debut in California some 30 years ago, Oliver has intrigued onlookers for certain nonchimpish behavior, including the ability to mix drinks. The ambiguous result of a chromosome analysis fed speculation that he might be a mutant or even a human-chimp hybrid.

But now geneticists John Ely of Trinity University and Charlene Moore of The University of Texas Health Sciences Center, both in San Antonio, report in the March issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology that they have scrutinized a blood sample for genetic markers specific for humans, chimps, and other primates. The upshot? Oliver's all chimpanzee.

At 6:05 PM, Anonymous Kathy said...

I know it's been months since this entry was posted, but I just stumbled across it.

The great Bill Marks was also my professor at Villanova. He passed away the year I was taking his population genetics course. Truly, Villanova lost a great asset after he was gone.

I've gone into biology as a full-time career, so I don't mind saying that I reject creationism. Oliver is a fascinating subject indeed. Who knew that chimps could learn behaviors that we like to think of as strictly human? And what does that mean for our "specialness" as human beings - is it real? Is it just a coincidence?

I don't mind if we turn out not to be so special. It's such an interesting quest to try to excavate the truth.


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