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By adding the very closely related gorilla, moderately close orangutan, and somewhat more distant macaque, the timing and processes of primate evolution can be more effectively studied.It is difficult, to nearly impossible, to infer whether an evolutionary event occurred on the human or chimpanzee lineage unless relatively closely related primate sequences are available for comparison.But those two earlier species lived side-by-side about 1.5 million years ago in parts of Kenya for at least half a million years, Leakey and colleagues report in a paper published in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature...
"The problem is that a number of features that have been identified as being related to humans may be interpreted in different ways," Harrison told Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to Live Science.
For example, all that has been found of , the oldest genus widely believed to have been a hominin, is a 7-million-year-old partial skull.
An extensive review of the literature has yet to turn up a credible report of such crosses.
In the 1920s, a Soviet scientist, Il'ya Ivanovich Ivanov, with the assistance of the Institut Pasteur at one of their field stations in French Guinea, unsuccessfully artificially inseminated three chimpanzees with human sperm .
Anthropologists are calling it the most exciting fossil discovery in decades, rivaling the discovery of the first ape-man, Australopithecus africanus, 77 years ago.