This week, Gordan Gallup, an evolutionary psychologist from the University of Albany, New York, made an extraordinary claim: scientists in the 1920s successfully conceived a Frankenstein's monster-like human-chimp hybrid (or "humanzee") in a Florida lab before getting cold feet and destroying their creation in a moment of panic.
Of course, there isn't a shred of evidence to back up his claim and let's just say that this isn't the first time Gallup has come up with somewhat questionable science. In 2012, he suggested blowjobs as a cure for morning sickness.
So, where did he get his top secret intel from? Gallup says the experiment was "confirmed" by an old university professor of his, who had, apparently, worked at the research center in Yerkes before it moved to Emory University in Atlanta in 1930.
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"They inseminated a female chimpanzee with human semen from an undisclosed donor and claimed not only that pregnancy occurred, but the pregnancy went full term and resulted in a live birth,” Gallup told The Sun.
While it appears they had no qualms about the moralities of the experiment pre-birth, the scientists suddenly became aware of the ethical repercussions of a half-ape, half-human child after it was born, and had it euthanized.
With no solid evidence, Gallup's claims are highly dubious but it wouldn't be the first or last time scientists attempted to crossbreed humans and apes. It would, however, be the first time any of those attempts were successful.
The most well-known examples were efforts made by Russian scientist Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov ("Red Frankenstein) during the 1920s. Ivanov conducted Bolshevik-backed studies involving the insemination of human sperm into female chimps. Not one ape conceived. He also attempted to use chimpanzee sperm to fertilize a human egg but, despite colossal efforts, the experiments never happened.
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Then there is the story of Oliver the "humanzee", whose vaguely human-like looks and behavior sparked rumors that he was a human-chimp hybrid. These were put to bed when, in 1996, a DNA test proved he had 48 chromosomes (common for chimpanzees), not 47 as had been claimed (halfway between a human's 46 and a chimpanzee's 48).
Although it's hard to say anything with absolute certainty, human DNA is so different to even our closest relatives that interbreeding is probably impossible. Despite this, Gallup believes that it is possible to crossbreed humans with great apes, including gorillas and orangutans. He's even come up with names for these hybrids.
“I’ve also coined what would be the appropriate terms to refer to human-gorilla hybrids and human-orangutan hybrids which would be a ‘hurilla’ and a 'hurang'."
But anyone who has seen Planet of the Apes knows this is not a good idea and even Gallup has his reservations. It would be a “fascinating” experiment but could end up doing more harm than good, not to mention the ethical questions it raises.
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