Feeds

DNA reveals human-chimp crossbreeding

Romeo and Ju-oo-oo-oo-liet

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A new study of chimpanzee and human genomes has revealed that the two lineages leading to the modern species interbred after they split. According to the report to be published in Nature today, the story of how we left our hirsute cousins behind is more complicated than previously thought.

Researchers at MIT's Broad Institute used powerful statistical techniques to fit our DNA sequences against chimps', giving some surprising results.

Senior author David Reich explained: “The study gave unexpected results about how we separated from our closest relatives. Something very unusual happened at the time of speciation.”

Investigations of the X chromosome revealed it's around 1.2m years “younger” than the rest of the genome. Co-author Eric Lander said: “The young age of chromosome X is an evolutionary smoking gun.”

Because the X chromosome is one of the two sex chromosomes, controlling traits important to breeding, selection acts most strongly to change it after hybridisation.

This is interpreted to mean after the apes that would evolve into chimps and humans first separated, two got it together and mixed things up again. The star-crossed pair's kid became our ancestor.

The timing of the initial separation was later than expected too. Fossil evidence had put the split at between 6.5m and 7.4m years ago, but the new genetic comparison brings the event forward probably less than 5.4m years ago. Past genetic studies had shown that different regions of the genome diverged at different times, but the new work is the first to put dates on the splits.

Lead author Nick Patterson said: “If the dating is correct, the fossil would precede the human-chimp split. The fact that it has human-like features suggest that human-chimp speciation may have occurred over a long period with episodes of hybridisation.”

The team say that their discovery could mean that the way animal species form has to be reconsidered. Reich said: "That [hybridisation] events have not been seen more often may simply mean that we have not been looking for them."

The plan now is to butress these important findings with DNA from gorillas and other primates.®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.