The human species began as the hybrid offspring of a male pig and a female chimpanzee, an American geneticist has suggested.
The startling claim has been made by Eugene McCarthy, who is also one of the world’s leading authorities on hybridisation in animals.
He points out that while humans have many features in common with chimps, we also have a large number of distinguishing characteristics not found in any other primates.
Dr McCarthy says these divergent characteristics are most likely the result of a hybrid origin at some point far back in human evolutionary history.
What’s more, he suggests, there is one animal that has all of the traits which distinguish humans from our primate cousins in the animal kingdom.
‘What is this other animal that has all these traits?’ he asks rhetorically. ‘The answer is Sus scrofa, the ordinary pig.’
Dr McCarthy elaborates his astonishing hypothesis in an article on Macroevolution.net, a website he curates. He is at pains to point out that that it is merely a hypothesis, but he presents compelling evidence to support it.
Scientists currently suppose that chimpanzees are humans’ closest living evolutionary relatives, a theory amply backed by genetic evidence.
However, as Dr McCarthy points out, despite this genetic similarity, there are a massive number of divergent anatomical characteristics distinguishing the two species.
These distinguishing characteristics, including hairless skin, a thick layer of subcutaneous fat, light-coloured eyes, protruding noses and heavy eyelashes, to name but a few, are unmistakeably porcine, he suggests.
There are also a number of less obvious but equally inexplicable similarities between humans and pigs in the structure of the skin and organs.
Indeed, pig skin tissues and heart valves can be used in medicine because of their similarity and compatibility with the human body.
Dr McCarthy says that the original pig-chimp hook up was probably followed by several generations of ‘backcrossing’, where the offspring of that pairing lived among chimps and mated with them – becoming more like chimps and less like pigs with every new generation.
This also helps to explain the problem of relative infertility in hybrids. Dr McCarthy points out that the belief that all hybrids are sterile is in fact false, and in many cases hybrid animals are able to breed with mates of the same species of either parent.
After several generations the hybrid strain would have become fertile enough to breed amongst themselves, Dr McCarthy says.
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