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Hypothetical chimpanzee–human hybrid
Scientific classificationEdit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Hominidae
Subfamily: Homininae
Tribe: Hominini
Hybrid: Homo sapiens × Pan troglodytes

The humanzee (sometimes chuman, manpanzee or chumanzee) is a hypothetical hybrid of chimpanzee and human, thus a form of human–animal hybrid. Serious attempts to create such a hybrid were made by Soviet biologist Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov in the 1920s, and possibly by researchers in China in the 1960s, though neither succeeded.


The portmanteau humanzee for a human–chimpanzee hybrid appears to have entered usage in the 1980s.[1]


The possibility of hybrids between humans and other apes has been entertained since at least the medieval period; Saint Peter Damian (11th century) claimed to have been told of the offspring of a human woman who had mated with an ape,[2] and so did Antonio Zucchelli, an Italian Franciscan capuchin friar who was a missionary in Africa from 1698 to 1702,[3] and Sir Edward Coke in "The Institutes of the Lawes of England".[4]

Chimpanzees and humans are closely related, sharing 95% of their DNA sequence and 99% of coding DNA sequences.[5] Hybridization between chimpanzees and bonobos has been documented,[6] as they share 99.6% of their genomes.[7] However, genetic similarity, and thus the chances of successful hybridization, is not always correlated with visual appearances. For example, pugs and huskies look quite dissimilar, but belong to the same species and subspecies and can hybridize freely.[8] On the other hand, rabbits and hares look very similar, but are only distantly related and cannot hybridize.[9]

All great apes have similar genetic structure. Humans have one pair fewer chromosomes than other apes, as humans have 23 chromosome pairs, and chimpanzees have 24,[10] with ape chromosomes 12 and 13 fused in the human genome into a large chromosome (which contains remnants of the centromere and telomeres of the ancestral 12 and 13).[11][12] Chromosomes 6, 13, 19, 21, 22, and X are structurally the same in all great apes. Chromosomes 3, 11, 14, 15, 18, and 20 match between gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans. Chimpanzees and humans match on 1, 2p, 2q, 5, 7–10, 12, 16, and Y as well. Some older references include Y as a match between gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans, but chimpanzees, bonobos, and humans have recently been found to share a large transposition from chromosome 1 to Y not found in other apes.[13]

The degree of chromosomal similarity among apes is roughly equivalent to that found in equines. Interfertility of horses and donkeys is common, although sterility of the offspring (mules) is nearly universal (with only around 60 exceptions recorded in equine history).[14] Similar complexities and prevalent sterility pertain to horse–zebra hybrids, or zorses, whose chromosomal disparity is very wide, with horses typically having 32 chromosome pairs and zebras between 16 and 23 depending on species. In a direct parallel to the chimp–human case, the Przewalski's horse (Equus ferus przewalskii) with 33 chromosome pairs, and the domestic horse (E. f. caballus) with 32 pairs, have been found to be interfertile, and produce semi-fertile offspring: male hybrids can breed with female domestic horses.[15]

In 1977, researcher J. Michael Bedford discovered that human sperm could penetrate the protective outer membranes of a gibbon egg.[16] Bedford's paper also stated that human spermatozoa would not even attach to the zona surface of non-hominoid primates (baboon, rhesus monkey, and squirrel monkey), concluding that although the specificity of human spermatozoa is not confined to Homo sapiens sapiens alone, it is probably restricted to the Hominoidea. However, in the opposite direction of closely related species, it has been found that human sperm binds to gorilla oocytes with almost the same ease as to human ones.[17]

Hybridization between members of different, but related genera is sometimes possible, as in the case of cama (camel and llama), wholphin (common bottlenose dolphin and false killer whale), and some felid hybrids. Even hybridization between different families, as in the case of the sturddlefish,[a] is possible (albeit exceedingly rare) provided the parent species are genetically similar enough to one another.[18]

Reports of attempted hybridization[edit]

There have been no scientifically verified specimens of a human–chimpanzee hybrid, but there have been substantiated reports of unsuccessful attempts to create one in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, and various unsubstantiated reports on similar attempts during the second half of the 20th century.

Ilya Ivanov was the first person to attempt to create a human–chimpanzee hybrid by artificial insemination.[19] Ivanov outlined his idea as early as 1910 in a presentation to the World Congress of Zoologists in Graz.[20] In the 1920s, Ivanov carried out a series of experiments, culminating in inseminating three female chimpanzees with human sperm, but he failed to achieve a pregnancy. These initial experiments took place in French Guinea. (For comparison with known cama statistics, in the case of male camel–female guanaco cross the probability that insemination would lead to pregnancy was approximately 1/6.[21]) In 1929, he attempted to organize a set of experiments involving nonhuman ape sperm and human volunteers, but was delayed by the death of his last orangutan. The next year, he fell under political criticism from the Soviet government and was sentenced to exile in the Kazakh SSR; he worked there at the Kazakh Veterinary-Zootechnical Institute and died of a stroke two years later.[22]

In the 1970s, a performing chimpanzee named Oliver was popularized as a possible "mutant" or even a human–chimpanzee hybrid.[23] Claims that Oliver had 47 chromosomes—midpoint between the normal 46 for humans and 48 for chimpanzees—were disproven after an examination of his genetic material at the University of Chicago in 1996.[24] Oliver's cranial morphology, ear shape, freckles, and baldness fall within the range of variability exhibited by the common chimpanzee.[25] Results of further studies with Oliver were published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.[26]

In the 1980s, there were reports of an experiment in human–chimpanzee crossbreeding conducted in China in 1967, and on the planned resumption of such experiments. In 1981, Ji Yongxiang, head of a hospital in Shenyang, was reported as claiming to have been part of a 1967 experiment in Shengyang in which a chimpanzee female had been impregnated with human sperm. According to this account, the experiment was cut short by the Cultural Revolution, with the responsible scientists sent off to farm labour and the three-months pregnant[27] chimpanzee dying from neglect. According to Timothy McNulty of Chicago Tribune, the report was based on an article in the Wenhui Bao newspaper of Shanghai. Li Guong of the genetics research bureau at the Chinese Academy of Sciences was cited as confirming both the existence of the experiment prior to the Cultural Revolution and the plans to resume testing.[28]

In 2019, unconfirmed reports surfaced that a team of researchers led by Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in the U.S. successfully produced the first human-monkey chimera. Belmonte and others had previously produced pig and sheep embryos containing a small percentage of human cells. As with those embryos, the human-monkey chimeras were reportedly only allowed to develop for a few weeks. Although development was stopped prior to the formation of a nervous system or organs, avoiding more severe ethical concerns, the research was reportedly carried out in China to avoid legal issues. Due to the much larger evolutionary distance between humans and monkeys versus humans and chimpanzees, it is considered unlikely that true human-monkey hybrids could be brought to term. However, it is feasible that human-compatible organs for transplantation could be grown in these chimeras.[29]

Evidence for early hominin hybridization[edit]

There is evidence for a complex speciation process for the PanHomo split. Different chromosomes appear to have split at different times, suggesting that large-scale hybridization may have taken place over a period of as much as four million years leading up to the emergence of the distinct human and chimpanzee lineages as late as six million years ago.[30]

The similarity of the X chromosome in humans and chimpanzees might suggest hybridization taking place as late as four million years ago. However, other mechanisms such as natural selection on the X chromosome in the chimpanzee–human last common ancestor may also explain the apparent short divergence time in the X chromosome.[31]

It is hypothesized that the peculiar features of Homo naledi may be due to them being descendants of a relatively recent hybridization event between Homo and Australopithecus.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A hybrid between the American paddlefish (Family: Polyodontidae) and the Russian sturgeon (Family: Acipenseridae), created in a freak lab accident in 2019 when Hungarian scientists attempted to induce gynogenesis in female sturgeons with paddlefish sperm.
  1. ^ "If the Chinese succeed in their present attempts with artificial insemination to crossbreed a human being with a chimpanzee, producing the novel and useful 'humanzee,' it would be arguably patentable matter". The portmanteau is older, dating to the 1920s, but then did not refer to a hybrid but to a "human-like" chimpanzee, trained to wear clothes etc.; c.f. "Snooky the Humanzee", a chimpanzee actor in the 1920s. Lev Soudek, Structure of Substandard Words in British and American English, Vydavatelʹstvo SAV, 1967, p. 199. eCVAzQEACAAJ, lvg_AAAAIAAJ, 1_ZZAAAAMAAJ on Google Books. OCLC 124579.
  2. ^ Damiani, Saint Petri (1853). Constantinus Caietanus (ed.). Chap. 29: De simia, et quo pacto simia capi possit.. Opus 52: De Bono Religiosi Status et Variarum Animantium Topologia (in Latin). Vol. 145. pp. 789, 790. Retrieved 4 September 2019. Ait [Alexander papa] enim quia nuper comes Gulielmus in Liguriae partibus habitans marem habebat simiae, qui vulgo maimo dicitur, cum quo et uxor eius, ut erat impudica prorsus ac petulans, lascivius jocabatur. Nam et ego duos eius filios vidi, quos de episcopo quodam plectibilis lupa pepererat; ... cum femina fera concubuit; ... Enimvero nuper allatus est praefato papae, et simul et nobis grandiusculus quidam puer; et si jam, ut dicitur, vicennalis, tamen prorsus elinguis et maimoni forma consimilis, ita ut eodem vocabulo nuncupetur. ("For [ Pope Alexander II ] says that recently Count William who lived in the area of Liguria had a male ape, who was called maimo [?], with which also his wife, as she was exceedingly impudent and wanton, played in a more lascivious manner. For I also have seen two sons of hers which the punishable whore bore of a certain bishop. ... the beast mated with the woman; ... So then, according to the pope's account, at the same time as for us, a rather large boy was born; and although, as it is said, he is already 20 years old, he is still unable to speak and looks like the maimo, so he is called by that same name.")
  3. ^ Zucchelli, Antonio (1712). "Relazioni del viaggio e missione di Congo nell'Etiopia inferiore occidentale".
  4. ^ "Institutes of the laws of England : Or a commentary upon Littleton, not the name of the author only, but of the law itself".
  5. ^ Wong, Kate (2014). "The 1 Percent Difference". Scientific American. 311 (3): 100. Bibcode:2014SciAm.311c.100W. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0914-100. PMID 25211913.
  6. ^ Vervaecke, Hilde; Elsacker, Van (January 1992). "Hybrids between common chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and pygmy chimpanzees (Pan paniscus) in captivity". Mammalia. 56: 667–669 – via ResearchGate.
  7. ^ "The bonobo, the non-murderous version of the chimpanzee, gets its genome mapped". Christian Science Monitor. 2012-06-13.
  8. ^ An example of a pug-husky hybrid:
  9. ^ Castle, W. E. (1925). "The Hare-Rabbit, A Study in Evolution by Hybridization". The American Naturalist. 59 (662): 280–283. doi:10.1086/280039. ISSN 0003-0147. JSTOR 2456498. S2CID 84774047.
  10. ^ Hugo, Kristin (2018-02-18). "Could Chimps and Humans Mate? Tales of 'Humanzee' Hybrid Are Murky and Likely Impossible". Newsweek.
  11. ^ Fan, Yuxin; Elena, Linardopoulou; Friedman, Cynthia; Williams, Eleanor; Trask, Barbara J. (2002). "Genomic Structure and Evolution of the Ancestral Chromosome Fusion Site in 2q13–2q14.1 and Paralogous Regions on Other Human Chromosomes". Genome Research. 12 (11): 1651-1662. doi:10.1101/gr.337602. PMC 187548. PMID 12421751. Retrieved April 9, 2024.
  12. ^ IJdo JW, Baldini A, Ward DC, Reeders ST, Wells RA (October 1991). "Origin of human chromosome 2: an ancestral telomere–telomere fusion". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 88 (20): 9051–5. Bibcode:1991PNAS...88.9051I. doi:10.1073/pnas.88.20.9051. PMC 52649. PMID 1924367.
  13. ^ Wimmer R, Kirsch S, Rappold GA, Schempp W (2002). "Direct Evidence for a Pan–Homo Clade". Chromosome Research. 10 (1): 55–61. doi:10.1023/A:1014222311431. PMID 11863072. S2CID 20147726.
  14. ^ Kay, Katty (2002-10-02). "Morocco's miracle mule". BBC News. Retrieved 2014-09-14.
  15. ^ Chandley, AC; Short, RV; Allen, WR (1975). "Cytogenetic studies of three equine hybrids". Journal of Reproduction and Fertility (23): 356–70. PMID 1060807.
  16. ^ Bedford JM (August 1977). "Sperm/egg interaction: the specificity of human spermatozoa". Anat. Rec. 188 (4): 477–87. doi:10.1002/ar.1091880407. PMID 409311. S2CID 19052254.
  17. ^ Lanzendorf, S. E.; Holmgren, W. J.; Johnson, D. E.; Scobey, M. J.; Jeyendran, R. S. (1992). "Hemizona assay for measuring zona binding in the lowland gorilla". Molecular Reproduction and Development. 31 (4): 264–7. doi:10.1002/mrd.1080310407. PMID 1571161. S2CID 26770937.
  18. ^ Roth, Annie (15 July 2020). "Scientists Accidentally Bred the Fish Version of a Liger". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2024.
  19. ^ Rossiianov, Kirill (2002). "Beyond species: Il'ya Ivanov and his experiments on cross-breeding humans with anthropoid apes". Science in Context. 15 (2): 277–316. doi:10.1017/S0269889702000455. PMID 12467272. S2CID 41098906.
  20. ^ Grant, John (2018). "8: Stalinist Russia". Corrupted Science: Fraud, Ideology and Politics in Science. Tucson, AZ: See Sharp Press. ISBN 978-1947071001.
  21. ^ Skidmore, J A; Billah, M; Binns, M; Short, R V; Allen, W R (7 April 1999). "Hybridizing Old and New World camelids: Camelus dromedarius x Lama guanicoe". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 266 (1420): 649–656. doi:10.1098/rspb.1999.0685. PMC 1689826. PMID 10331286.
  22. ^ Pain, Stephanie (20 August 2008). "Blasts from the past: The Soviet ape-man scandal". New Scientist.
  23. ^ "10. Oliver the Mutant Chimp". Archived from the original on 2005-12-28. Retrieved 2006-03-11.
  24. ^ Anonymous (1996). "Mutant Chimp Gets Gene Check". Science. 274 (5288): 727e–0. doi:10.1126/science.274.5288.727e.
  25. ^ Hill, WCO; in Bourne, GH (1969). Anatomy, behavior, and diseases of chimpanzees (The Chimpanzee. Vol. 1. S. Karger. pp. 22–49.
  26. ^ Ely JJ, Leland M, Martino M, Swett W, Moore CM (1998). "Technical note: chromosomal and mtDNA analysis of Oliver". Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 105 (3): 395–403. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1096-8644(199803)105:3<395::AID-AJPA8>3.0.CO;2-Q. PMID 9545080.
  27. ^ "The Baltimore Sun from Baltimore, Maryland on February 12, 1981 · 3". 12 February 1981.
  28. ^ "Li Guong, of the genetics research bureau of the Academy of Science treats it seriously. 'My personal view is that it is possible [...] We also did experimental work on this before the Cultural Revolution, but we were stopped. At the moment, we plan to arrange further tests.'" Timothy McNulty, "Chinese Aim To Implant Human Sperm In Chimps", St. Petersburg Independent 12 February 1981, p. 19. "Chinese May Resume Experiments to Create 'Near-Human' Ape", Houston Post (from Chicago Tribune), 15 February 1981, p. 19, cited after Justin Leiber, Can Animals and Machines be Persons?: A Dialogue, Hackett Publishing, 1985 p. 71.
  29. ^ Davis, Nicola (2019-08-03). "First human-monkey chimera raises concern among scientists". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-09-14.
  30. ^ Patterson N, Richter DJ, Gnerre S, Lander ES, Reich D (June 2006). "Genetic evidence for complex speciation of humans and chimpanzees". Nature. 441 (7097): 1103–8. Bibcode:2006Natur.441.1103P. doi:10.1038/nature04789. PMID 16710306. S2CID 2325560.
  31. ^ Wakeley J (March 2008). "Complex speciation of humans and chimpanzees". Nature. 452 (7184): E3–4, discussion E4. Bibcode:2008Natur.452....3W. doi:10.1038/nature06805. PMID 18337768. S2CID 4367089. "Patterson et al. suggest that the apparently short divergence time between humans and chimpanzees on the X chromosome is explained by a massive interspecific hybridization event in the ancestry of these two species. However, Patterson et al. do not statistically test their own null model of simple speciation before concluding that speciation was complex, and—even if the null model could be rejected—they do not consider other explanations of a short divergence time on the X chromosome. These include natural selection on the X chromosome in the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees, changes in the ratio of male-to-female mutation rates over time, and less extreme versions of divergence with gene flow. I therefore believe that their claim of hybridization is unwarranted." Wade, Nicholas. "Two Splits Between Human and Chimp Lines Suggested", The New York Times, 18 May 2006. For a chromosomal homology map between these species see. Pratas, D; Silva, R; Pinho, A; Ferreira, P (May 18, 2015). "An alignment-free method to find and visualise rearrangements between pairs of DNA sequences". Scientific Reports. 5: 10203. Bibcode:2015NatSR...510203P. doi:10.1038/srep10203. PMC 4434998. PMID 25984837.
  32. ^ Berger, L.R.; Hawks, J.D.; Dirks, P.H.G.M.; Elliott, M.; Roberts, E.M. (2017). "Homo naledi and Pleistocene hominin evolution in subequatorial Africa". eLife. 6. doi:10.7554/eLife.24234. PMC 5423770. PMID 28483041.

Further reading[edit]