An Irish American scientist has claimed that human beings evolved as a hybrid offspring of a male pig and a female chimpanzee.
Professor Eugene McCarthy, a leading geneticist at the University of Georgia, is recognised as one of the world’s leading authorities on hybridization in animals.
The Daily Mail reports that McCarthy makes the claim in an article on Macroevolution.net, a website he curates.
McCarthy says: “While humans have many features in common with chimps, we also have a large number of distinguishing characteristics not found in any other primates.
“These divergent characteristics are most likely the result of a hybrid origin at some point far back in human evolutionary history.”
He also claims: “What’s more, 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? The answer is Sus scrofa, the ordinary pig.”
The report says that Dr McCarthy elaborates on his astonishing hypothesis in his article and is at pains to point out that that it is merely a hypothesis.
However, the Daily Mail says he presents ‘compelling evidence’ to support it.
He also questions the common theory amongst scientists that chimpanzees are humans’ closest living evolutionary relatives, a theory amply backed by genetic evidence.
The doctor points out that, despite this genetic similarity, there are a massive number of divergent anatomical characteristics distinguishing the two species.
He says 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 unmistakably porcine.
The Georgia professor says there are also a number of less obvious but equally inexplicable similarities between humans and pigs in the structure of the skin and organs.
He says: “Indeed, pig skin tissues and heart valves can be used in medicine because of their similarity and compatibility with the human body.
“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.”
Dr McCarthy claims this also helps to explain the problem of relative infertility in hybrids and 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.
In conclusion, McCarthy writes: “I must admit that I initially felt a certain amount of repugnance at the idea of being a hybrid. The image of a pig mating with an ape is not a pretty one, nor is that of a horde of monstrous half-humans breeding in a hybrid swarm.
“But the way we came to be is not so important as the fact that we now exist. As every Machiavellian knows, good things can emerge from ugly processes, and I think the human race is a very good thing. Moreover, there is something to be said for the idea of having the pig as a relative.
“My opinion of this animal has much improved during the course of my research. Where once I thought of filth and greed, I now think of intelligence, affection, loyalty, and adaptability, with an added touch of joyous sensuality - qualities without which humans would not be human.”
The Daily Mail report says that McCarthy’s hypothesis has come in for substantial criticism from orthodox evolutionary biologists and their Creationist opponents alike.
Where does the term “the luck of the Irish” come from?