When Chimps and Humans Diverged


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New studies out of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) provide answers to some very basic questions about the "split" between humans and chimpanzees. Not only do these studies address when this split occurred (somewhere between 5.4 and 6.3 million years ago), but some important questions regarding how the split occurred. Like many things in evolutionary biology "the split" was not simple or quick, but rather complex and lengthy, and ,according to the data, fascinating, as well.

According to the report on CNN.com:

The researchers hypothesize that an ancestral ape species split into two isolated populations about 10 million years ago, then got back together after a few thousand millennia. At that time the two groups, though somewhat genetically different, would have mated to form a third, hybrid population. That population could have interbred with one or both of its parent populations. Then, at some point after 6.3 million years ago, two distinct lines arose.

These studies were made possible by the completion of the chimpanzee genome project (sequencing all of the genes in the chimp genome) in September of 2005. This milestone allowed researchers to analyze 800 times more DNA than in previous studies, shedding new light on this fascinating question.

Original CNN.com article

Article in from The Chicago Tribune