Friday, May 19, 2006

Ah, those pesky chimps


Bad enough we have to share common ancestors, but now it seems chimpanzees stayed on the humanoid radar screen as potential mates for longer than we had imagined.

Why would creatures who had become bipedal want to fool around with quadruped cousins? Who knows? Maybe for the same reason boys on isolated Nebraska farms purportedly experiment with sexual congress among the ewes.

According to genetic studies reported in this week's Nature, Harvard scientists claim some interspecies hanky-panky that led eventually to modern humans.

If claiming kinship with chimpanzees causes certain folks among us to wax wroth, this new study will surely ignite their afterburners.

Hey, take a deep breath and relax. The most effective doubters will be scientists themselves, as they scrutinize the new work for potential or actual flaws. On a story like this, the mill of peer review will grind exceedingly fine.

And, while we're at it, don't fail to note the sequencing of actual Neanderthal DNA, which suggests that Neanderthals and modern humans did little interbreeding. The poor Neanderthals must have had their hands full -- to the point of extinction -- with those chimpy Cro-Magnons. The book of DNA is only partly open. More details are surely in the offing.