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Ancient human and chimps mixed

Findings of interbreeding could help broaden conventional thinking regarding origins of species

Charles Q. Choi
The ancestors of humans and chimpanzees may have interbred and exchanged significant numbers of genes after the initial split between the species, scientists report in the May 17 online edition of Nature.The findings could help rethink mainstream thought during the origin of species "by suggesting there can be a quite of bit of exchange as species emerge and diverge," James Mallet at University College London, who did not participate in this study, told The Scientist.The researchers compared the genomes of humans, chimps, gorillas, and more distantly related primates such as orangutans and macaques, yielding roughly 20 million base pairs of aligned sequence. They focused not on the average level of genetic divergence between humans and their relatives, which can reveal approximately when each species emerged, but on genetic divergence across the human genome, to see when sequences diverged.The researchers unexpectedly found the youngest divergent regions between humans and...

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