Human’s mated with chimps for 1m years


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Men mated with chimps for 1m years
(Filed: 18/05/2006)

The human family tree has been thrown into disarray by evidence that the 
ancestors of man and chimpanzees kept on mating with each other for a million 
years or more.

Studies of fossils have suggested that the ancestors of humans had started to 
walk upright seven million years ago.

A study released today by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute of 
Technology suggests that men interbred with their ape cousins until at least 6.3
million years ago, making the boundaries between the species fuzzy.

The evolutionary split between human and chimpanzee is much more recent - and 
more complicated - than previously thought, blurring the distiction between 
different branches of our family tree and also explaining the small difference 
in ape and human genetic codes today.

The study, published in the journal Nature, shows that the speciation process 
was unusual - possibly involving an initial split followed by interbreeding 
before a final separation.


The monkeys who can speak in sentences
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
(Filed: 18/05/2006)

The first evidence that monkeys string "words" together to say more complicated 
things, as humans do, is published today by scientists.

Simple vocal languages use a different sound for every different meaning. But 
there is a limit to the range of sounds that can be made and easily 
distinguished. So for complicated messages it is more efficient to combine basic
sounds in different ways to convey different meanings.

A team at the University of St Andrews reports today in the journal Nature that 
male putty-nosed monkeys (Cercopithecus nictitans) in West Africa can combine 
different sounds to construct new messages, a remarkable discovery.

During three years of observations of the monkeys in the Gashaka Gumti National 
Park, Nigeria, Dr Kate Arnold and Dr Klaus Zuberbühler found that the creatures 
use their two main call types - "pyows" and "hacks" - to warn each other against

They also noticed that a particular sequence of calls appeared to mean something
else entirely when strung together, depending on the circumstances. A string of 
pyows warns against a loitering leopard, while a burst of hacks indicates a 
hovering crowned eagle. But a sentence made up of several pyows followed by a 
few hacks tells the group to move to safer terrain.

Dr Arnold, a primate psychologist, discovered the phenomena by playing leopard 
growls and variations of the calls back to the monkeys and seeing how they 

"These calls were not produced randomly and a number of distinct patterns 
emerged," she said. "The pyow-hack sequence means something like 'let's go' 
whereas the pyows by themselves have multiple functions and the hacks are 
generally used as alarm calls."

Previously, it was thought animal communication systems used one particular 
signal to mean one particular thing.

Dr Zuberbühler added: "To our knowledge, this is the first good evidence of a 
syntax-like natural communication system in a non-human species."

copyright of Telegraph Group Limited

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